Human Rights First Clients Ordered to Remain in Mexico Following Immigration Court Hearings

San DiegoYesterday two Human Rights First clients were inexplicably returned to Mexico after their initial immigration court hearings under the Trump Administration’s disastrous and unnecessary “Remain in Mexico” plan. The clients, Ariel and Alec*, are among the first asylum seekers to receive interviews regarding their fear of return to Mexico under the new plan. They were returned to Mexico without explanation or notice to their Human Rights First attorney, despite each expressing fears of returning to Mexico. They now will wait in danger for their merits hearings, where they will present evidence to support their asylum claims, to take place in San Diego several months from now.

“We knew little before Remain in Mexico took effect about how it would work, and now that it has gone into effect, we have even more questions and still no answers. No one involved in the process, from the immigration court judge to the border officers, knows what’s going on,” said Human Rights First’s Robyn Barnard, who is representing Ariel and Alec. “This is chaos and at the center of it are two people just trying to find lives of peace and security.”

On Wednesday, Human Rights First’s first client, Alec, who is 29-years-old, had his fear interview with the United States Citizenship and Immigration Services (USCIS) Asylum Office. The interview, focusing on his claim of fear of return to Mexico, lasted three hours. In the time leading up to the interview, during which he was held in Customs and Border Protection (CBP) custody, he only had a few hours of sleep and had not eaten. After the interview, he was held in CBP custody for an additional night at the San Ysidro port of entry.

Thursday morning, Human Rights First’s second client, 19-year-old Ariel, who suffers from epilepsy, had his interview with USCIS, which lasted over four hours.

Following the conclusion of both interviews, Ariel and Alec were returned to Mexico without explanation nor documentation. In response to a request from Barnard, USCIS did not offer any documentation or reasons for their return. Barnard also did not receive any response from CBP regarding a separate request that Ariel be exempted from the Remain in Mexico policy due to his medical condition.

En route from San Diego back to Mexico, Ariel suffered an epileptic seizure because he did not have access to his medication while in CBP custody.  He is now recovering in Mexico.

Today, the United States District Court for the Northern District of California is hearing arguments on a preliminary injunction that could halt the Return to Mexico plan.

“The District Court has an opportunity to put this immoral and illegal plan on hold, and it should do so. Every day that the administration is allowed to carry out this scheme, the lives of innocent, vulnerable people hang in the balance. With an injunction granted, the security of our clients and others could be ensured,” added Barnard.



Published on March 22, 2019


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