New Report Shows Grave Dangers Asylum Seekers Face in Ciudad Juárez

NEW YORK — With reports that the Biden administration may extend the use of the Title 42 policy to illegally block and expel single adult asylum seekers from the U.S. asylum system, a report by Human Rights First and Hope Border Institute finds that expulsions continue to jeopardize the lives of people sent to danger in Mexico. At the same time, border communities stand ready and able to welcome asylum seekers.

The report, Disorderly and Inhumane: Biden Administration Continues to Expel Asylum Seekers to Danger While U.S. Border Communities Stand Ready to Welcome, focuses on the El Paso-Ciudad Juárez region where the expulsion policy continues to block asylum seekers from Cuba, El Salvador, Guatemala, Haiti, Mexico, Nicaragua, Venezuela and other countries from access to the U.S. asylum system. Families and adults expelled to Ciudad Juárez are often immediately targeted for kidnapping and violence. The expulsion policy is creating disorder, confusion and trauma, and is pushing migrants and asylum seekers to undertake dangerous – and repeated – journeys to cross the border to reach safety.

“The Biden administration must immediately stop expelling people seeking protection in the United States to danger in Mexico and the countries they fled, and restart asylum protections at the southern border,” said Kennji Kizuka, associate director of research and analysis for refugee protection at Human Rights First and co-author of the report. “Reports that the Biden administration will continue blocking and expelling single adult asylum seekers for months longer while allowing only families to seek protection are extremely concerning. This policy would exacerbate existing disparities in access to asylum and block from protection many Black, LGBTQ, and other asylum seekers not fleeing with children.”

At the same time, the Biden administration continues to use Title 42 to block and expel asylum seekers to Ciudad Juárez. The report finds that communities in El Paso and New Mexico are ready to welcome migrants. Shelters, service providers, and volunteers along the U.S.-Mexico border are prepared to receive asylum seekers and provide housing, food and other support. These service providers are coordinating their efforts to welcome migrants and assist them in reaching their destination communities in the United States to continue their asylum process.

“Border communities in El Paso and New Mexico have welcomed asylum seekers, migrants and refugees for generations. We have the skills, capacity and heart to continue doing so,” said Hannah Hollandbyrd, policy specialist, Hope Border Institute and co-author of the report. “Title 42 does not uphold dignity or human rights–rather, it expels, criminalizes and harms people seeking protection while continuing to externalize what should be the U.S. government’s responsibility. All this is happening while shelters with thousands of available beds sit empty in our region. With strong coordination from the Biden administration, fully restoring asylum at the southern border is entirely possible and must be done immediately. We’re ready to welcome with dignity.”

Key findings from the report include:

  • Expelled families and adults are immediately targeted for kidnapping and violence in Ciudad Juárez, and restrictions on asylum at U.S. ports of the entry block people fleeing persecution and other violence in Mexico from protection;
  • In early June, the Biden administration carried out more so-called “lateral expulsions” – holding asylum seekers in crowded border facilities, transporting them hundreds of miles by plane in shackles, and then expelling them without explanation to Ciudad Juárez;
  • The updated count by Human Rights First of violent attacks against asylum seekers and migrants expelled or blocked at the U.S.-Mexico border since President Biden took office now stands at 3,276;
  • The expulsion policy is spurring disorder, confusion and trauma, and is pushing migrants and asylum seekers to undertake dangerous – and repeated – journeys to cross the border to reach safety; and
  • The Department of Homeland Security has significant resources at its disposal to receive and register asylum seekers and release them to communities along the border and across the country, standing by with unused shelter space and underutilized volunteer networks

The report recommends that the Biden administration:

  • Immediately end the Title 42 expulsion policy, halt all such expulsions, and restore access to asylum as required by U.S. refugee law.
  • Avoid unnecessary and harmful detention of asylum seekers and utilize a humane welcoming process in which adults and families seeking refuge in the United States are swiftly referred and transported to a reception site run by a community-based shelter, refugee assistance, or other humanitarian organizations and referred for community-based case support when needed;
  • Instruct Border Patrol agents and Customs and Border Protection officers to end the mistreatment of asylum seekers and migrants in their custody
  • Coordinate with and provide logistical and financial support to critical community-based service providers offering shelter, legal services, and humanitarian aid to ensure asylum seekers are treated humanely and able to quickly and safely transit to destination locations in the United States;
  • Ensure timely and transparent communication with community groups on relevant policy changes;
  • Provide redress to the families, adults, and children harmed due to the Title 42 expulsion policy, including through the provision of government-funded legal counsel and psychosocial support.

The full report can be found here.


Published on July 8, 2021


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