Remain in Mexico / “Migrant Protection Protocols”
January 28, 2020
Dear Acting Secretary Wolf:
One year ago, the Department of Homeland Security (DHS) began implementing the policy it inexplicably labeled the “Migrant Protection Protocols” (MPP). Since then, our 23 legal, faith-based, humanitarian, and community organizations have struggled to provide at least some minimal legal and other assistance to a small portion of the many asylum seekers and migrants subjected to MPP. As detailed below, we urge the immediate termination of this harmful and illegal policy.
One year into this policy, we continue to be gravely concerned about the safety of the men, women, and children turned back by DHS officers to some of the most notoriously dangerous areas of Mexico to “wait” for many months for U.S. immigration court hearings. DHS is returning people fleeing persecution to areas essentially controlled by deadly cartels, ridden with corruption, plagued by kidnappings and high levels of violence – areas where they are targeted due to their nationalities and other characteristics. DHS returns asylum seekers to Mexico despite U.S. State Department warnings of widespread homicides, kidnappings, and other violence, overwhelmingly turning them back to Mexican states that are so dangerous the U.S. State Department has directed U.S. citizens not to travel there or reconsider visiting. In Nuevo Laredo, the U.S. consulate recently warned of even greater violence, gunfights and blockades throughout the city and on highways. Asylum seekers turned back at the Nogales port of entry will now have to travel for hours through areas where a family of American mothers and children were recently massacred in order to reach MPP court in El Paso. Reports that migrants have been extorted by Mexican authorities on the route between Nogales and Ciudad Juárez underscore the absurdity of relying on Mexican officials for protection.
Day in and day out we learn of horrifying accounts of kidnappings, assaults, trafficking, and other attacks on asylum seekers waiting in Mexico. Over 800 cases of kidnappings and other attacks have been tracked so far by Human Rights First and others, but we know that the actual number is much larger as the vast majority of returnees have not been interviewed by researchers. Children suffer cruelly. In some cases, families have been separated through MPP. Many young children have suffered kidnapping, assaults during abductions, trauma from witnessing parents or other migrants tortured, and many live in fear of kidnappings, trafficking, and assaults. A man returned to Tijuana was brutally killed. Asylum seekers are overwhelmingly afraid to report these incidents to Mexican authorities as Mexican officers are often complicit in, or turn a blind eye to, attacks or kidnappings targeting migrants. Asylum seekers have described cartel members walking uninhibited into spaces the Mexican government has designated as safe waiting areas in order to identify targets for kidnapping and other harm.