Skip to main content

LATEST UPDATES: Tracking COVID-19 | Vaccines | Racial Justice

Asylum-Officer Turns Whistleblower, Says ‘Remain In Mexico’ Program Rigged

A migrant calls out numbers from the unofficial list of asylum-seekers in Tij...

Photo by Max Rivlin-Nadler

Above: A migrant calls out numbers from the unofficial list of asylum-seekers in Tijuana on July 16, 2019

A former asylum-officer has turned whistleblower after he was asked to send asylum-seekers back to Mexico under the Trump administration’s “Remain in Mexico” program.

Douglas Stephens had only done five interviews with asylum-seekers in the “Remain in Mexico” program before he decided that it was breaking the law and resigned.

His job was to interview asylum-seekers about whether they could safely be returned to Mexico while their claims were processed. After interviewing migrants this summer, he said he realized that the system is rigged against them.

Listen to this story by Max Rivlin-Nadler.

RELATED: San Diego Immigration Courts Lead Nation In Returning Asylum-Seekers To Mexico

Even if they had credible fears, they would still be sent back to Mexico, because the standard for proving their fears is set too high.

“The ‘Remain in Mexico’ program is clearly designed to prevent anyone from passing the interview,” said Stephen in a conference call with reporters on Monday. “And I think by forcing people back into Mexico, it significantly impacts these people’s ability to gain any sort of protection in the United States.”

Stephens said the program, which has sent 55,000 asylum-seekers back to Mexico, is illegal and violates the oath of office that asylum officers take.

He also said that Customs and Border Protection officials were instructed not to let asylum-seekers speak to lawyers before vital interviews that determined whether they could be safely sent back to Mexico or not.

Last week, federal Judge Dana Sabraw ruled that it was the right of an asylum-seeking family from Guatemala to meet with a lawyer.


San Diego News Now podcast branding

San Diego news; when you want it, where you want it. Get local stories on politics, education, health, environment, the border and more. New episodes are ready weekday mornings. Hosted by Anica Colbert and produced by KPBS, San Diego and the Imperial County's NPR and PBS station.

  • Need help keeping up with the news that matters most? Get the day's top news — ranging from local to international — straight to your inbox each weekday morning.

This site is protected by reCAPTCHA and the Google Privacy Policy and Terms of Service apply.

Photo of Max Rivlin-Nadler

Max Rivlin-Nadler
Speak City Heights Reporter

opening quote marksclosing quote marksI cover City Heights, a neighborhood at the intersection of immigration, gentrification, and neighborhood-led health care initiatives. I'm interested in how this unique neighborhood deals with economic inequality during an unprecedented global health crisis.

Want more KPBS news?
Find us on Twitter and Facebook, or sign up for our newsletters.

To view PDF documents, Download Acrobat Reader.