New Report Documents Devastating Toll of Court-ordered Reimplementation of Remain in Mexico
WASHINGTON, DC -- A new report, Fatally Flawed: “Remain in Mexico” Policy Should Never Be Revived, finds that asylum seekers subjected to the court-ordered reimplementation of the Remain in Mexico (RMX) policy suffered kidnappings and other violent attacks in Mexico. The report comes as the federal district court in Texas that had enjoined the initial termination of Remain in Mexico considers a request by Trump-aligned attorneys general to force the Biden administration to halt the policy’s end again.
WASHINGTON, DC — A new report, Fatally Flawed: “Remain in Mexico” Policy Should Never Be Revived, finds that asylum seekers subjected to the court-ordered reimplementation of the Remain in Mexico (RMX) policy suffered kidnappings and other violent attacks in Mexico. The report comes as the federal district court in Texas that had enjoined the initial termination of Remain in Mexico considers a request by Trump-aligned attorneys general to force the Biden administration to halt the policy’s end again.
“The Remain in Mexico policy was, and remains, an unmitigated human rights and refugee protection disaster. U.S. policies that return asylum seekers to Mexico cannot be implemented lawfully, safely, or humanely,” said Kennji Kizuka, associate director for refugee protection research at Human Rights First and co-author of the report. “Just like the initial policy, the court-ordered reimplementation of Remain in Mexico delivered asylum seekers to brutal, targeted attacks. This policy should never be resurrected by a future administration, adopted in law by Congress, or again forced by the courts into use.”
Fatally Flawed draws on interviews conducted by Human Rights First with asylum seekers returned to Mexico as well as nearly 2,700 interviews conducted by pro bono legal staff with migrants and asylum seekers enrolled in RMX during the court-ordered reimplementation (“RMX 2.0”). These interviews reveal brutal attacks on asylum seekers, including kidnappings, rapes, torture, and other violence after returning to Mexico under the court-imposed reimplementation of RMX.
“Every day that asylum seekers are forced to wait in Mexico for the policy to be fully unwound is another day they are at risk of being kidnapped, raped, or tortured,” said Julia Neuser, research and policy associate attorney at Human Rights First and co-author of the report. “The Biden administration was right to end this brutal policy that returned thousands of asylum seekers to horrific violence.”
Key findings from the report include:
- Staggering statistics of targeted violence in Mexico against migrants and asylum seekers. Of nearly 2,700 interviews reviewed by Human Rights First of people initially enrolled in RMX during its court-ordered reimplementation:
-41 percent (1,109 people) reported violent attacks in Mexico.
-Kidnappings made up 36 percent (401 reports) of these attacks.
-Mexican officials were responsible for, or complicit in, 36 percent of these reported attacks (399 reports).
-More than 60 individuals reported highly invasive strip searches, groping, and other inappropriate conduct by Mexican officials during stops.
- Despite steps announced by the Department of Homeland Security (DHS) to “enhance” security, kidnappings, rapes, and other violent assaults continued against people after DHS had returned them to Mexico under RMX 2.0. Recent attacks include: a Nicaraguan woman kidnapped and sexually assaulted, a Venezuelan asylum seeker beaten and shot at, a teenage girl sexually assaulted, and two Nicaraguans kidnapped by a cartel and forced to watch as cartel members put a gun in another man’s mouth and threatened to kill him.
- RMX 2.0 remained a due process farce:
-Only five percent of people returned under RMX 2.0 had a lawyer – an even lower rate than the eight percent represented during RMX under the Trump administration.
-Recent government data shows only 63 asylum seekers in RMX 2.0 have been granted relief out of 1,600 completed cases. This rate is nearly identical to the 4.1 percent grant rate for RMX cases completed during the Trump administration.
- Of those subjected to RMX 2.0, 78 percent were from Cuba, Nicaragua, and Venezuela – countries from which many refugees are fleeing.
- Black and Indigenous migrants continue to be targeted for kidnappings, violence and discrimination in Mexico due to their race and/or Indigenous identity.
- Mexican police, immigration officers, and other government authorities continue to be responsible, often in collusion with cartels, for brutal attacks on migrants and asylum seekers after being returned to, or while passing through, Mexico.