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Mexico asks U.S. to make humanitarian guarantees before looming MPP restart

San Diego Union-Tribune
San Diego Union-Tribune
 2021-11-29

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The government of Mexico on Friday made public the concerns that its officials have raised with the Biden administration about the pending restart of the "Remain in Mexico" program.

The program, created by the Trump administration and known officially as Migrant Protection Protocols, dramatically reshaped asylum screening processing in the United States by requiring asylum seekers to wait in Mexico while their immigration court cases proceeded in the United States.

The Biden administration ended the program earlier this year, but a federal judge in Texas has ordered its reimplementation. The judge took issue with the reasoning the administration gave in the memo ending the program and found that the states of Texas and Missouri likely would be harmed because they might have to provide services including drivers licenses to asylum seekers who chose to reside in their state.

In a court filing earlier this month, the administration said that Remain in Mexico would likely return in "the coming weeks."

The Biden administration is waiting on Mexico's decision to accept people returned to its northern border cities in order to reimplement the program. But Mexico signaled on Friday that it still needs certain guarantees from the United States before it will be willing to take in asylum seekers with pending U.S. court cases, including funding for shelters and nonprofits along the border that will have to support the returnees.

Migration negotiations between the two countries have largely happened out of public view. Friday's statement breaks that silence, making Mexico's decision to publicize its concerns even more significant.

Among its "humanitarian concerns," Mexico called for significant improvements in conditions for those waiting in the program, including access to attorneys. In September 2019, about nine months into the program, only about 1 percent of those enrolled had managed to find attorneys.

Mexico also said that the United States would have to expedite cases in the program as much as possible to shorten the amount of time that asylum seekers spent waiting in Mexico and that the U.S. would have to guarantee access to medical attention and COVID-19 vaccines.

The statement called for the United States to exempt people in vulnerable categories from the program, including unaccompanied minors, pregnant people, people with physical or mental illness, older asylum seekers, members of the LGBTQ+ community and indigenous asylum seekers who are monolingual, among others.

Many people in these categories were returned to Mexico under the previous iteration of the program.

Pregnant people were denied entry to the United States for their court hearings because immigration officials have policies against transporting people late in their pregnancy. Indigenous asylum seekers often struggled to understand the system they'd been placed in, particularly with the additional language barriers they faced.

Whether they were among these categories or not, many asylum seekers in the program found themselves in dangerous situations while they waited. Human Rights First tracked reports of violence against asylum seekers in the program and found more than 1,500 instances of attacks including assault, kidnapping, rape or worse.

Additionally, Human Rights First gathered more than 6,300 reports of asylum seekers being violently harmed this year after being returned to Mexico through Title 42. That's a Trump administration pandemic policy that the Biden administration has continued even though it places people in similar conditions as Remain in Mexico — conditions that President Joe Biden criticized often on the campaign trail.

Mexico hinted that it is concerned about its ability to keep returned asylum seekers alive and safe. In its Friday statement, it asked the United States to respect designated points of return, "taking into consideration capacities of the [Mexican immigration agency] to provide adequate support to migrants as well as security conditions at the local level."

While it was not clear from the statement where designated points of return might be for the second implementation of Remain in Mexico, all of the areas in northern Mexico along the border are flagged as dangerous by the U.S. State Department because of "crime and kidnapping."

Tamaulipas, the state along the easternmost part of the shared border, is on the State Department's "Do Not Travel" list. The State Department recommends reconsidering travel to nearly every other state along the border.

Asylum seekers and other migrants are often targeted for kidnappings in the region.

Mexico emphasized that it believes the solutions to migration through its territory to the United States lie in addressing root causes through programs in its southern region as well as Central America. The two countries will soon roll out a pilot program in Honduras, the statement said, to work toward this goal.

This story originally appeared in San Diego Union-Tribune .

Comments / 6

Sabrina Prince
11-30

Mexico needs to protect its mexican citizens and its country from this INVASION OTHERWISE THEIR MEXICAN CULTURE WILL DISAPPEAR any country that's being invaded by other parts of countries should protect and defend themselves. These illegal aliens are carrying many infectious diseases no one knows what they are. Mexico will eventually disappear with all of these illegal aliens bringing in their own 3rd world habits.

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