Yesterday’s announcement that the U.S. will begin forcing individuals and families seeking protection to return to Mexico is as harmful as it is illegal. Known as “Remain in Mexico,” it will rob asylum-seekers of their due process rights, including access to legal counsel, and expose thousands to increased risks to their health and safety.

The International Rescue Committee (IRC) calls on the U.S. Administration to rescind this cruel and irresponsible policy, and uphold its humanitarian commitments.

The United States has systematically eliminated safe and legal pathways for Central Americans to receive protection, cancelled evidence-based programs that support families in fulfilling immigration court appearance obligations, and attempted to circumvent decades-old precedent in U.S. asylum law.

Based on the gross neglect implementing “zero tolerance,” a de facto child separation policy, the IRC fears a roll-out that will sow chaos on both sides of the border – for families and for government actors – placing real risk on the wellbeing of vulnerable children and families, and making a mockery of U.S. asylum adjudication.

Said Olga Byrne, Director of Immigration, U.S. Programs –

“‘Remain in Mexico’ is another gut punch to U.S. protections for refugees fleeing violence or persecution.

“The administration claimed it was diverting resources from U.S. refugee resettlement to strengthen asylum processing. But instead of strengthening the U.S. system to adjudicate asylum claims fairly and efficiently, the U.S. is now experimenting with dangerous and impractical enforcement policies: laying bare a wholesale intention on dismantling legal forms of immigration for those who need it most.

“Even more troubling is the prospect of another botched implementation - and its impact on families already experiencing unbearable levels of trauma.”

Asylum-seekers have the right to apply for protection. Longstanding U.S. and international law protects people from being returned against their will to a country where they may face persecution or torture.

IRC Emergency Interventions

The IRC has quickly ramped up emergency response in El Salvador, seeing first-hand the conditions underlying flight and requests for international protection. As of January 15, the IRC had:

Further, the IRC has implemented an emergency response in the United States through its network, responding to asylum-seekers through:

For more information and to support IRC's work in El Salvador and in the U.S., visit here. You can take action here.