Human Rights First details violence against asylum seekers at U.S. border

NEW YORK – With Congress considering codifying additional policies that will trap asylum seekers in Mexico, Human Rights First today reports that it has tracked over 1,300 reports of torture, kidnapping, rape, extortion, and other violent attacks on asylum seekers and migrants stranded in Mexico since the administration’s asylum ban was enacted in May.  

“People waiting to seek asylum protection in the United States are trapped in Mexico in life-threatening situations while struggling to get CBP One appointments,” said Christina Asencio, Director of Research and Analysis for Refugee Protection. “Human Rights First has tracked over 1,300 reports of violence against them, and we know that our figures only scratch the surface of this human rights disaster. The asylum ban strands people at risk of harm at our border, punishes refugees, and denies asylum protection to people regardless of their eligibility under U.S. asylum law, deporting them to danger. The administration must rescind this policy and Congress must reject any attempts to codify it.”     

Six months after the Biden administration initiated its bar on asylum, Human Rights First’s research shows that the policy strands vulnerable people in Mexico where they are forced to risk their lives waiting in danger for limited CBP One appointments.   

If they attempt to seek protection at a port of entry or cross outside ports of entry without a CBP One appointment, they risk suffering the ban’s punitive asylum denials or wrongful returns to harm and persecution.  

Given the under-reporting of kidnappings and other crimes in Mexico and the substantial increase in kidnappings in parts of northern Mexico reported by aid workers and Mexican authorities, it is clear that our data represents only a fraction of the violence targeting asylum seekers and other migrants awaiting action south of the U.S.-Mexico border.    

The Biden administration should commit to pursuing the effective, humane, and legal policies that it has already initiated or announced. Human Rights First has called for the asylum ban to be rescinded, as it is incompatible with international refugee law.  The organization also recommends the administration uphold U.S. refugee law and maximize asylum processing at ports of entry, expand regional refugee resettlement, strengthen pivotal parole initiatives, and increase critical aid to address regional protection gaps.


Published on November 29, 2023


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