Mexico and the United States Must Suspend Talks on Barring Asylum Seekers

Mexico and the United States Must Suspend Talks on Barring Asylum Seekers

Mexico Must Avoid Complicity in Human Rights Abuses

Refugees International urges the governments of Mexico and the United States to suspend any discussion of an agreement that would force asylum seekers to remain in Mexico pending a determination of their U.S. asylum claims.

Eric Schwartz, president of Refugees International, said:

“The Trump administration is asking the government of Mexico to facilitate and endorse abusive policies that will harm individuals fleeing persecution. The proposed agreement flies in the face of international refugee law and policy to which the United States and Mexico have long been committed.

Mexico should not be bullied into doing this.

While Mexico should indeed commit to responsible cooperation and negotiations with the United States on regional migration issues, its government should refuse to support U.S. proposals that will abuse human rights.” 

Mexico is hosting thousands of Central Americans seeking refuge, and its capacity to provide asylum to this population is already under stress. While the United States should support Mexican capacity building to process Central Americans seeking asylum in Mexico, it is unacceptable for the Trump administration to dramatically aggravate Mexico’s challenge by forcing asylum seekers at U.S. ports of entry to return to Mexico. Such an approach creates increased uncertainty and fear for asylum seekers and puts them at risk of abuse at the hands of criminal elements in Mexico. It conflicts with U.S. commitments under the United Nations Refugee Convention and Protocol and violates U.S. law on asylum. 

The proposed approach is all-the-more troubling in light of recent Trump administration practices designed to effectively choke off the option of asylum for those at the southern border of the United States. These practices have included 1) telling asylum seekers at U.S. ports of entry that they cannot apply or simply turning them away and telling them to return at another time; 2) criminally prosecuting asylum seekers in violation of U.S. international commitments not to do so; 3) seeking to eliminate long-established grounds for asylum; and 4) pressuring asylum seekers in U.S. custody to “self-deport,” among many other measures. 

As described in several recent Refugees International reports, including Memorandum to the President on the Migrant Caravan, Closing Off Asylum at the U.S.-Mexico Border, and Putting Lives at Risk: Protection Failures Affecting Hondurans and El Salvadorans Deported from the United States and Mexico, the asylum issues at the U.S.-Mexican border represent a policy challenge that is amenable to humane and effective solutions.