On Anniversary Of 'Remain in Mexico,' Immigrant Advocates Call For Its End
Immigrant advocates and lawyers gathered in downtown San Diego on Wednesday to mark the first anniversary of the “Remain in Mexico” program. The program sends asylum seekers back to Mexico to wait while their asylum claims wind through immigration courts.
Immigration lawyers from organizations including Jewish Family Service and the American Civil Liberties Union called for the immediate end of the program, which has sent over 60,000 Central American asylum-seekers back to Mexico.
Advocates say those asylum-seekers have been targeted by kidnappers and robbers as they try to find temporary shelter in border towns before their court dates in the U.S.
“If the program was designed to protect migrants and prevent human trafficking, we would not be sending asylum-seekers back to one of the most dangerous cities in the world,” said Nicole Ramos, the director of the Border Rights Project at El Otro Lado, which provides legal assistance to asylum-seekers in Tijuana.
A report from the organization Human Rights First found that over 816 people in the program have been murdered, tortured, or attacked while waiting in Mexico for their court hearing.
One of the asylum-seekers enrolled in the program was Gabriela, who spoke at the press conference on Wednesday and didn't want her full name used out of fear for her safety.
She says she and her son waited more than six months in Tijuana before the government terminated her asylum claim without notifying her.
She says she was returned to Tijuana with nothing and with no guidance from the government.
“My son asked me, ‘Mom, what comes next?’ We had no family in Tijuana, we had no one that could go pick us up,” she said.
The program has returned over 27,500 asylum-seekers along the California-Mexico border alone. It is currently being challenged in federal court.