New York, NY, January 25, 2019 — 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:
- Provided cash to more than 1253 beneficiaries through an IRC designed and led cash mechanism with 15 partners;
- Trained over 797 civil society and government partners in protection in practice;
- Recorded more than 54,000 visits to CuentaNos.org;
- Directly addressed 33 crisis cases for those being deported back to El Salvador, or in highly vulnerable situations within El Salvador; and
- Disbursed immediate emergency cash assistance to vulnerable Salvadorans returning from the migrant caravans.
Further, the IRC has implemented an emergency response in the United States through its network, responding to asylum-seekers through:
- An emergency response at the border to assist families released from federal custody, reaching more than 2,000 children and parents to date;
- Short-term humanitarian and case management services to 150 children and parents who had been separated under zero tolerance; and
- Comprehensive case management services to asylum-seeking families in need of support as they await the outcome of their proceedings in four locations: San Diego, Phoenix, Tucson, and Dallas.