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WRC files complaint with DHS OIG and CRCL regarding ‘Remain in Mexico’

WASHINGTON, D.C. – The Women’s Refugee Commission (WRC) filed a complaint on Friday with the U.S. Department of Homeland Security’s (DHS) Offices of Inspector General (OIG) and of Civil Rights and Civil Liberties (CRCL) calling for an investigation into 20 cases of family separation that resulted from the Trump administration’s Remain in Mexico (RIM) policy.

The complaint – which includes details of all 20 cases in question – also called for the OIG and CRCL to report on steps taken by U.S. Customs and Border Protection (CBP) and DHS – if any – to track those families separated under RIM.

The complaint follows a WRC field report from El Paso, Texas, and Ciudad Juarez, Mexico – released in May – that looked at the impact of RIM on families seeking safety at the U.S. border with Mexico. The report, “Chaos, Confusion, and Danger,” found new cases of family separation and what appeared to be brand new and inhumane CBP tent facilities. It also found that CBP was returning migrants to Mexico without any identification or documents.

The Trump administration first launched RIM in January of 2019, under which it sends asylum-seeking individuals and families, among others, back to Mexico where they must wait for their immigration hearings in the U.S. Some hearings are set many months out, and those returned to Mexico are frequently living in precarious situations, vulnerable to kidnappings, extortion, physical and sexual assault, and exploitation by corrupt Mexican officials and criminal elements, among other risks. Compounding this situation are the increasing levels of violence along Mexico’s northern border, where those in RIM are returned. WRC’s complaint documents cases in which CBP has sent parents, legal guardians, caretakers, spouses, or part of a family back to Mexico under RIM, while processing into the U.S. accompanying children or the other half of the family.

“The cases documented in this complaint form the tip of the iceberg,” said Leah Chavla, policy advisor in WRC’s Migrant Rights and Justice Program. “At a time when the lawsuits filed over last year’s family separation policy are still active, it is mind boggling that the administration continues to separate families and in such cruel ways. Sending an accompanying parent, family member, spouse, or half of a family back to Mexico is extremely dangerous and traumatizing, and negatively impacts the whole family, both on the separated family members’ ability to seek protection and safety in the United States and also on their emotional, mental, and physical well-being.

“WRC urges DHS OIG and CRCL to immediately review these cases and to fully investigate whether there is a pattern or practice of separating families under the auspices of RIM as part of a broader deterrence policy at the border. The additional hurdle of an international border, coupled with CBP’s failure to meaningfully collect any individualized contact information for family members returning to Mexico, often means that family members are left wondering what happened to their loved ones on either side of the border. That is both barbaric and immoral.”