Is Mexico Safe for Refugees and Asylum Seekers?

President Trump has repeatedly falsely asserted that the United States can turn away asylum seekers who have crossed through Mexico without seeking asylum there first—even though there is no legal basis for this claim. Secretary of Homeland Security Kirstjen M. Nielsen has also incorrectly stated that asylum seekers must “seek protections in the first safe country they enter, including Mexico.”

Despite this rhetoric, many refugees face deadly dangers in Mexico. For many, the country is not at all safe. Mexico falls far short of meeting the legal requirements that would permit U.S. officials to treat it as a “safe third country” for the purpose of turning back asylum seekers. And since there is no safe third country agreement in place, the president and members of his administration have no legal basis to state that asylum seekers must apply for asylum in Mexico.

Rather than returning refugees to a country that is currently unable to provide them safety, the United States should strengthen support to build an effective refugee protection system in Mexico. This factsheet explains the concept of safe third country agreements under U.S. law and why Mexico does not meet the legal requirements.

Fact Sheets


  • Kennji Kizuka

Published on November 1, 2018


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