Human Rights First Demands End to Punitive Policies that led to Tragic Loss of Life in Ciudad Juárez Detention Center
NEW YORK – Human Rights First grieves for the people whose lives were tragically lost while jailed at the Mexican government’s immigration detention center in Ciudad Juárez. We join the migrants and asylum seekers, along with humanitarian, non-governmental and faith leaders on both sides of the border, to demand that the United States and Mexican governments ensure a transparent investigation and uphold human rights and the right to seek asylum.
“There is no excuse for this horrific loss of human life,” said Eleanor Acer, Senior Director of Refugee Protection at Human Rights First. “Instead of blaming asylum seekers, migrants or ‘irregular migration,’ the United States and Mexico should end inhumane policies that punish migrants and deny people seeking refuge access to asylum. People seeking asylum should not be criminalized and locked in jails.”
The migrants and asylum seekers who died or were injured in the fire included people from Colombia, Ecuador, Guatemala, Honduras, El Salvador, and Venezuela. Many were Indigenous people from Guatemala. During its extensive research into the human rights abuses suffered by asylum seekers and migrants turned back to danger by U.S. border policies, Human Rights First interviewed many asylum seekers stranded in Ciudad Juárez due to Title 42, including during research conducted in the city in December 2022.
Following that research, the organization issued a comprehensive report on the harms the policy inflicted, tracking over 13,480 reports of torture, kidnapping, and other brutal attacks of migrants and asylum seekers expelled or stranded in Mexico due to Title 42 since President Biden took office. Human Rights First has also issued multiple reports on the human rights abuses suffered by asylum seekers and migrants held in U.S. detention facilities, including prolonged jailing; medical neglect; physical, sexual, and verbal abuse; punitive use of solitary confinement, and denial of basic necessities.
“There must be a transparent investigation into the conditions and supervision of this jail and full accountability,” Acer stated. “As Title 42 winds down, it’s imperative that the United States abandon its plan to replace the dangerous policy with a new asylum ban that similarly leaves people seeking refuge stranded in places where their lives and safety are at risk.”
Human Rights First urges Mexico and the United States to end punitive policies that jail migrants and asylum seekers, abandon efforts to ban and block people from seeking asylum in the United States and stop employing rhetoric that paints people seeking asylum as threats or burdens. The Biden administration should withdraw its proposed asylum ban, ensure full access to asylum that is not limited to an appointment system, and halt any plans to reinstate family detention.