Go to Press Releases library
Press Releases

New report on US and Mexico migrant and asylum policies details sexual violence, abuse, and other human rights violations for women seeking protection

WASHINGTON, DC / MEXICO CITY — On the one-year anniversary of U.S. President Biden’s executive orders on migration and asylum, the Women’s Refugee Commission (WRC) and Instituto para las Mujeres en la Migración (IMUMI) today released a report on the effects of the Biden and Mexican President Lopez Obrador administrations’ border policies on women and families in Mexico. The new report, Stuck in Uncertainty and Exposed to Violence: The Impact of U.S. and Mexican Migration Policies on Women Seeking Protection in 2021, notes that both the U.S. and Mexican governments have fallen short of promises to restore safe, orderly, and humane migration and have left thousands of women vulnerable.

The report, based on monitoring of events and interviews with migrant and asylum-seeking women and their families in Mexico, details the devastating effects of continued anti-asylum policies and increasing enforcement that together block women and families from reaching safety in Mexico or at the U.S.-Mexico border.

“Our team spoke to women in Mexican migrant shelters who are feeling desperate and stuck, who have difficulties in accessing even the most basic services or medical care and are unable to support themselves and their families while in indefinite limbo,” said Savitri Arvey, policy advisor on the Migrant Rights and Justice team at WRC. “Many of them were afraid they would even be tracked down by their persecutors and that they had nowhere to turn for safety. Presidents Biden and Lopez Obrador’s policies, grounded in misguided attempts to deter people from seeking asylum, are having a devastating effect on women seeking protection.”

WRC and IMUMI found that as a result of current U.S. and Mexican government policies and practices, women seeking protection are being forced to wait for extended periods – often in precarious and dangerous circumstances – at Mexico’s northern and southern borders. Women reported experiencing sexual and gender-based violence, kidnapping, and feeling unsafe while waiting in uncertainty.

The report highlighted that current policies and practices leave women waiting in squalid conditions in Mexico, where they were sometimes forced to sleep on the street and left with limited access to showers and bathrooms. A number of women struggle to access the most basic services while waiting in Mexico, including medical care.

“Pushing women into vulnerable situations in which they have to wait in dangerous, unsanitary conditions with their families while their asylum claims in Mexico or the U.S. are being processed is contrary to the humanitarian protection framework that both governments have promised to implement,” said Gretchen Kuhner, director of IMUMI. “Women in the region are fleeing gender-based violence, general insecurity, and the effects of devastating climate disasters only to be met with more violence and lack of protection in Mexico, including sexual violence, kidnapping, human smuggling, and trafficking. Neither government lacks adequate legal mechanisms to fix this situation – they lack political will.”

The report laid out recommendations for the Lopez Obrador administration, which include a call to reverse course and adopt policies that restore and strengthen asylum systems in the U.S. and Mexico and broaden complementary pathways for protection.

WRC and IMUMI called on the Biden administration to restore access to asylum at the U.S. southern border, including at ports of entry, by ending the use of Title 42 to expel and block adults and families at the U.S. southern border, and ending Remain in Mexico (RMX).

WRC and IMUMI also urged the Biden administration to prioritize protection in its bilateral negotiations with Mexico instead of pressuring for increased enforcement. They also called on the Lopez Obrador administration to strengthen Mexico´s asylum system to ensure that women in danger can be relocated while they wait, to expedite humanitarian visas to ensure that asylum seekers, victims of crimes, and migrant children have immigration documents, and to eliminate use of the National Guard and other armed forces in migration enforcement.

The groups also called on Mexico to cease collaborating with the U.S. government on Title 42 and RMX.

“President Lopez Obrador has reiterated Mexico´s policy to welcome migrants and refugees in the region,” said Kuhner. “Now, these words need to be put into action by reallocating funds from enforcement to protection, beginning with an enhanced COMAR, increased support for housing, health care, education, and access to justice for migrants, asylum seekers, and refugees in Mexico. Instead of suffering repeated and excessive violence, women in need of protection should receive documentation and services to continue to support their families and participate in Mexican society.”

“It is deeply disappointing and profoundly concerning that one year into the Biden administration, the U.S. has yet to meaningfully restore access to asylum at the U.S.-Mexico border, including at ports of entry, and uphold U.S. asylum laws,” said Arvey. “There are rights-respecting, sensible, and humane approaches to migration management that the administration continues to disregard – at an enormous cost. It is a choice – not a necessity – to prolong this suffering and to continue to put women and children in particular in harm’s way as they are left with no possible pathway to safety in Mexico or in the U.S. There is no question this impact will only worsen. The administration must reverse course and restore access to asylum.”