The U.S. administration’s use of an emergency declaration to build a physical barrier on the southern border, alongside reports of the first forcible return of an asylum-seeking child and their family into Mexico, is of exceptional concern to the International Rescue Committee.

Said Jennifer Sime, Senior Vice President, U.S. Programs, International Rescue Committee –

“The developments out of the U.S. administration place some of the most vulnerable people on earth in harm’s way. This emergency declaration, alongside reports of the first forcibly returned children, fatally undermine the United States’ strategic leadership and moral clarity on humanitarian issues.

“This is clearly a manufactured ‘emergency.’ Not only are the number of irregular border crossings at their lowest - the real crisis, once again, is the instability in Central America which is forcing people to flee for their lives, coupled with the administration’s systematic attacks on these same vulnerable individuals.

“Rather than offering safe haven, the U.S. administration continues to block people from claiming asylum, separate families as part of its ‘zero tolerance’ effort, and forcibly return asylum seekers to Mexico as part of the ‘Remain in Mexico’ policy.

“Seeking asylum is legal. Turning asylum seekers away is not. The ‘Remain in Mexico’ policy robs asylum seekers of their due process rights, including access to legal counsel, and will expose thousands of families and children to unsafe conditions.

“The IRC calls on the U.S. Administration to rescind this cruel and irresponsible policy, follow domestic and international law, and uphold America’s humanitarian commitments.

“The IRC recognizes that the principle of sovereignty enshrined in international law guarantees that every nation has the right to control its border, but both U.S. and international law also provide for the safe and legal movement of vulnerable people - including Central American refugees and asylum seekers - and the right to seek asylum.

“The result of these new lows in U.S. policy, means that children and families who have already fled persecution, torture, and violence will be exposed to even more danger and uncertainty.

“IRC Staff who have been on the ground in Tijuana have noted pervasive fear, security issues both for those trying to help asylum seekers and those awaiting asylum claims, and credible risk of being targeted while awaiting to present themselves. Colleagues have called the idea of sending people back appalling, and sending children in particular, unthinkable.”