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Border & Immigration

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

A migrant calls out numbers from the unofficial list of asylum-seekers in Tijuana on July 16, 2019
Max Rivlin-Nadler
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.

Asylum-Officer Turns Whistleblower Says ‘Remain In Mexico’ Program Rigged
Listen to this story by Max Rivlin-Nadler.

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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.