NEW YORK, NY, Jan. 27, 2019 – Physicians for Human Rights (PHR) denounces the enforcement of a policy, announced on December 20, to return asylum seekers to Mexico to await their U.S. immigration court hearings – a practice that is clearly inhumane and inconsistent with U.S. legal obligations.
The new policy, misleadingly dubbed the Migration Protection Protocols (MPP), took effect on Friday at the San Ysidro border crossing in San Diego, and puts at risk thousands of asylum seekers who are hoping to find safety in the United States. Kathryn Hampton, PHR’s Asylum Network program officer, says the policy will increase the humanitarian crisis that is unfolding at the border and that it blatantly disregards U.S. and international law.
“This policy makes a mockery of constitutional due process protections and openly defies U.S. obligations under international conventions. Migrants’ lives will be endangered while they are forced to wait in Mexico, indefinitely in limbo, facing high levels of violence,” Hampton said.
Under the MPP, the United States will begin to push asylum seekers back into Tijuana, Mexico after giving them an immigration court date which is likely to be months in the future.
PHR Senior Researcher Tamaryn Nelson, who is currently in Tijuana, said, “Forcing asylum seekers to return to Mexico is a violation of all constitutional guarantees of due process, and is effectively a step toward refoulement – returning people to a country where they may be persecuted – which is illegal no matter how you look at it. Under the UN Convention Relating to the Status of Refugees, asylum seekers are protected from being forcibly returned to any country where they may face persecution. What the Trump administration has just started doing is a direct violation of its legal obligations.”
“The U.S. Department of Homeland Security has dared to call this policy the ‘Migration Protection Protocols,’ but everything about it flies in the face of any type of protection,” Hampton added. “These asylum seekers – many of them children – will now be exposed to dangerous conditions with no promise of safety. We cannot stay silent when the United States is knowingly sending people back to potentially life-threatening conditions,” Hampton added.
PHR renews its calls to the Trump administration to respect the human rights and dignity of asylum seekers and to ensure that they are not turned away or subjected to onerously long waits to access their legal right to apply for asylum.
Read PHR’s latest policy brief: “Zero Protection: How U.S. Border Enforcement Harms Migrant Safety and Health.”
Physicians for Human Rights (PHR) is a New York-based advocacy organization that uses science and medicine to prevent mass atrocities and severe human rights violations. Learn more here.