New Report Details Asylum Ban’s Role in Violence in Mexico

WASHINGTON – Kidnappings and horrific violence against people waiting in Mexico to seek asylum under the Biden administration’s asylum ban are escalating, Human Rights First documented in its new report, Inhumane and Counterproductive: Asylum Ban Inflicts Mounting Harms. The report urges the Biden administration to end its temporary policy, which has been ruled unlawful.

“Forcing people fleeing persecution and violence to remain in Mexico in inhumane conditions for months, struggling to secure a CBP One appointment while they are targets of kidnappings and abuses is unlawful and immoral. No one is spared this horrific harm – pregnant women and families with infants have been preyed upon with reports of torture and sexual violence inflicted against those kidnapped. The asylum ban subverts refugee protection, inflicts trauma, and results in irreparable harm. It punishes refugees who seek protection at our border and returns them to persecution and danger regardless of their eligibility for asylum,” said Christina Asencio, Director of Research and Analysis of Refugee Protection with Human Rights First. “The United States has a legal obligation to uphold refugee law and human rights and an opportunity to set a moral standard for the international community. The asylum ban tramples on refugees’ rights and, like past policies blocking asylum access, is inhumane and counterproductive.”

The report urges the Biden administration to reject policies that punish, ban, and block people seeking asylum, contrary to core tenets of international refugee protection, and strengthen the effective, humane, and legal policies it has already initiated or announced. Human Rights First’s updated recommendations to the administration can be found here.

The report’s findings include:

  • Targeted kidnappings and violence against asylum seekers and migrants in Mexico as they wait for and with CBP One appointments have sharply escalated in recent months, with estimates of a 45% to 50% increase in some areas. ​​Black, Indigenous, LGBTQ+, HIV+, women, children, and people with urgent medical conditions face particular barriers and dangers.
  • Several factors drive irregular border crossings, including increased dangers, inhumane conditions, blocked and restricted access and processing at U.S. ports of entry, and misinformation. The asylum ban is counterproductive to effective migration policy and refugee protection, diverts the time of asylum adjudicators, and undermines the capacity to adjudicate asylum cases efficiently.
  • The asylum ban results in the return of refugees to persecution and torture, amounting to refoulement. People subject to the asylum ban’s higher screening standard in expedited removal credible fear interviews are three times more likely to fail and be ordered deported to their country of feared persecution or to Mexico, where they face grave dangers and risk return (chain refoulement) without a chance to apply for U.S. asylum.
  • Families with children seeking protection at the border are subjected to the asylum ban in expedited removal and placed on home curfew in the new “FERM” program, resulting in trauma and the rapid deportation of vulnerable families without meaningful access to legal representation.
  • The Department of Homeland Security is separating families who seek protection at the border, including spouses who are legally married, children separated from parents, and pregnant women separated from partners and spouses, resulting in the detention, indefinite separation, and return or deportation of the family member.

The Court of Appeals for the Ninth Circuit and the District Court in the District of Columbia are expected to issue rulings on the asylum ban.


Published on October 13, 2023


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