U.S. “Return to Mexico” Policy Inhumane and Illegal

Refugees International is deeply alarmed by a new policy from the Trump administration that prevents Central Americans from seeking asylum along the U.S. southern border. Under the policy, asylum seekers will now be forced to wait in Mexico while their cases are processed. This is a stark violation of U.S. and international law.

On Tuesday, January 29, at the Port of San Ysidro between San Diego and Tijuana, a Honduran asylum seeker was refused the kind of interview about his fear of persecution that U.S. law requires. Instead, he was rushed into a van and “returned to Mexico” to wait for his asylum hearing there. This new policy supplements turn-back and metering policies that have already put asylum-seeking families and unaccompanied children at great risk.

Secretary of Homeland Security Kirtsjen Nielson, who toured the port yesterday, said the new policy “ensured migrants are protected.” But returning asylum seekers to Mexico will have the opposite effect. Tijuana shelters are overwhelmed and violence in northern Mexico is high. Those forced to wait in Mexico lack access to the counsel necessary for an effective pursuit to their asylum claims in the United States.

Congress and the courts should immediately block this inhumane and illegal policy, which violates this country’s moral and legal obligations to those seeking refuge. Policymakers should instead focus on increasing capacity of ports of entry to receive asylum seekers and supporting efforts that improve the conditions driving Central Americans to migrate.