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Asylum-Rights Groups Call on Biden, López Obrador, Trudeau to Address Human Rights Concerns for Migrants and Asylum Seekers

WASHINGTON, D.C. — Ahead of the North American Leaders’ Summit (NALS) taking place later this afternoon, more than 70 advocacy organizations wrote to U.S. President Joe Biden, President of Mexico Andrés Manuel López Obrador, and Prime Minister of Canada Justin Trudeau urging the leaders to prioritize, during their conversations today, the human rights of migrants and asylum seekers. The summit is being held at the White House to discuss, among other things, COVID-19, climate change, and migration.

“Our organizations are gravely concerned that, despite the stated commitments of your administrations to safe, humane, and orderly migration management that upholds respect for human rights, the United States and Mexico’s recent immigration policies and practices illustrate a cruel, ineffective, and unlawful deterrence-based approach that flouts and subverts international refugee and human rights law,” wrote the group.

The summit comes amid growing frustration toward the Biden administration from asylum-rights groups regarding the treatment of people seeking safety at the U.S. border and the perpetuation of Trump-era border polices.

“Following in President Trump’s footsteps, the Biden administration continues to misuse the public health authority under Title 42 of the U.S. Code to unlawfully block people seeking protection at ports of entry and expel people back to danger in Mexico and their countries of origin, instead of allowing them to access protection in the United States,” the group stated.

The group added, “Over the past few months, the United States has used several hundred expulsion flights to send tens of thousands of individuals to southern Mexico, Central America, and Haiti without their having the opportunity to seek protection, in violation of domestic and international law.”

The letter also highlighted concerns about Mexico’s overwhelmed asylum system. “Significant barriers to seeking protection must be addressed and increased resources must be made available for Mexico’s refugee agency (COMAR), which has faced understaffing and resourcing for far too long, in the face of unprecedented growth in asylum applications.”

The group also called on the U.S. and Mexican governments to prevent the reinstatement of the Migrant Protection Protocols (MPP) also known as “Remain in Mexico,” another policy instituted by the Trump administration.

“There is no way to make MPP safe, humane, or lawful, and as Secretary of Homeland Security Alejandro Mayorkas rightfully acknowledged, ‘there are inherent problems with the program that no amount of resources can sufficiently fix,’” wrote the groups.

The letter urged the leaders to work toward a collaborative, regional approach to “expand opportunities to access international protection and create alternative pathways to protection… without barring or restricting the right to seek asylum at borders and ports of entry.”