Acting Homeland Security Secretary Kevin McAleenan’s claim this week that the Remain in Mexico policy has “successfully provided protections” to asylum-seekers is fiction, one of the administration’s worst lies yet: Human Rights First has documented hundreds of instances of rape, kidnapping, and other violence against people sent to Mexico to wait out their cases under this inhumane policy.
“Some returned asylum seekers have been targeted outside of Mexican migration offices, and in transiting to and from U.S. ports of entry to attend immigration court,” the report said. Others have been targeted in the shelters that are supposed to keep them safe. In total, Human Rights First has identified 340 instances of violence against vulnerable families, more than triple the amount the organization identified in its August report.
In one instance, the group said, a 3-year-old child and his parents were kidnapped when the Department of Homeland Security sent them to Nuevo Laredo to wait out their asylum cases. “The boy’s parents were separated, and the woman reported hearing the kidnappers beat and electrocute her husband. When she last saw him lying on the ground, beaten and bleeding, he told her, ‘Love, they’re going to kill us.’ The woman and her three-year-old son were released but she does not know if her husband is alive.”
The administration is also returning asylum-seekers who were already violently attacked in Mexico. “An attorney who attempted to interview a Central American asylum seeker who had been raped in Ciudad Juárez, but was returned there by DHS nonetheless, said that the woman ‘was so traumatized she couldn’t write her name on a pad of paper. She trembled so much it was just scribbles.’ The attorney told Human Rights First that the women is pregnant as a result of the assault.”
Violence against asylum-seekers returned to Mexico is very real, yet acting Customs and Border Protection commissioner Mark Morgan has dismissed these acts as “anecdotal allegations,” claiming that “Mexico has provided nothing to the United States corroborating or verifying those allegations.” Human Rights First notes that there may be a reason for that: Like U.S. immigration agents, corrupt Mexican officials are also carrying out the abuse.
“A Central American family with three children were abducted by men wearing Mexican police uniforms after being returned by DHS to Ciudad Juárez in August,” the report said. “An attorney assisting the family reported that photos sent with ransom demands to the family’s relatives in the United States showed the family in what appeared to be a government office.”
What can’t be forgotten is that it’s the U.S. that’s leaving these families vulnerable. During a visit to Matamoros earlier this week, 2020 Democratic presidential candidate Julián Castro escorted a dozen LGBTQ asylum-seekers and asylum-seekers with disabilities who should have been excluded from this policy back into the U.S. But just hours later, U.S. officials had returned all 12 back to Mexico.
“Outrageous,” Castro said. The Texas Civil Rights Project, which had invited the former Housing and Urban Development secretary and San Antonio mayor to the border, said, “If these people … do not meet the criteria for ‘vulnerable populations,’ then the ‘vulnerable’ exemptions in ‘Remain in Mexico’ are lip service.” So are the claims from the administration that this inhumane and illegal policy is helping keep anyone safe.