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New Report Reveals Danger of "Remain in Mexico" Including New Cases of Family Separation, Confiscated Identity Documents, New Inhumane CBP Custody Tents

WASHINGTON, D.C. – A brand new report released by the Women’s Refugee Commission (WRC) today shows real-time threats to asylum-seeking families facing the Trump administration’s “Remain in Mexico (RIM)” policy. RIM began on January 29, 2019 when the Trump administration initiated a policy that forces asylum seekers presenting themselves at the U.S. border to wait in Mexico while their immigration cases are processed – a policy that many advocacy organizations assert is unlawful.

Field research for the report, “Chaos, Confusion, and Danger: The Remain in Mexico Program in El Paso,” took place from April 23 – 26, 2019 in El Paso, Texas and along the U.S. border with Mexico at Juárez. Among key findings were new cases of family separation, Customs and Border Protection (CPB) returning migrants to Mexico without any identification, and what appear to be brand new and inhumane CPB custody tents.

“The Trump administration is ramping up its border cruelty from a deliberate campaign of chaos now to a Kafkaesque system of destruction,” said Michelle Brané, senior director of the Migrant Rights and Justice program at WRC. “The Trump border policy continues to be focused on traumatizing and endangering families and children, and creating chaos. These policies do not solve any problems and do not make us safer. They are cruelty for its own sake.”

During RIM hearings at the El Paso Immigration Court on April 24 and 25, all but one person scheduled for court was part of a family and more than half of those schedule were children. All but one expressed fear of being returned to Mexico. As of April 26, U.S. Department of Homeland Security (DHS) officials had returned 1,600 migrants to Mexico. As of yesterday, May 15, 2019, that number swelled to more than 5,000 people.

“The message is clear – this administration has no problem violating the law, the human rights of asylum seekers and migrants, or putting the lives of children and great risk to score political points,” said Brané.

Among many alarming discoveries, the report found that as part of RIM:

  • CPB is returning migrants to Mexico without their passports, birth certificates, and other identifying documents which means accessing services – including
    asking for extensions for a Mexican visa – will be near impossible.
  • Nearly all shelters in Ciudad Juárez, Mexico are at capacity. Asylum seekers who present themselves at the border often find that when they are forcibly
    returned back to Mexico, they have nowhere to stay, with mothers and children being left to fend for themselves on the streets of Juárez.
  • Ciudad Juárez is extremely dangerous. Between April 1 – 15, 2019, an average of 5.7 people were murdered every day.
  • WRC confirmed numerous reports of family separation through RIM including separating adult legal guardians and adoptive parents by sending the children into
    U.S. Office of Refugee Resettlement Centers and the adults back to Mexico. WRC also found that the U.S. government is not documenting these cases – just as
    it failed to with the first family separation policy.
  • While in El Paso, WRC observed a collection of outdoor tents believed to be a new Border Patrol/CPB custody area for asylum seekers and migrants as part of RIM.