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HIAS Devastated by Return of the “Remain in Mexico” Program

SILVER SPRING, Md. — Today the U.S. Department of Homeland Security announced that it has reached an agreement with the Mexican government to restart the Remain in Mexico program. Under the program, certain asylum seekers will be forced to wait in Mexico while applying for asylum in the United States.

HIAS is disappointed that the administration, which has found that the program failed to protect vulnerable asylum seekers, is modifying it to include Haitian nationals. While the government is required by a district court order to restart the program, this announcement is an expansion of the program.

“The restarted ‘Remain in Mexico’ program is a disaster for people who only want what we all want safety and an opportunity to live their lives free from violence and persecution,” said Andrew Geibel, Policy Counsel at HIAS. “There is no ‘humane’ way to implement a program which places asylum seekers in danger and makes legal representation nearly impossible.”

HIAS believes that Remain in Mexico violates the human rights of asylum seekers and has signed a letter to the administration refusing to be complicit in its implementation.

“The administration must reverse course, not use the court order as an excuse to expand the Remain in Mexico program, and work to legally re-end the program for good,” Geibel added.

The original Remain in Mexico program applied to nationals of Spanish-speaking countries and Brazilians but it will soon be expanded to include Haitians as well. As there are far fewer Haitian Creole speakers and volunteers, organizations like HIAS will have a hard time helping these clients. The expansion also singles out one of the groups most vulnerable to discrimination and trauma in Mexico, as Haitians already experience racist harassment in northern Mexico.

The program will initially be implemented at four ports of entry: San Diego, Brownsville, Laredo, and El Paso. Asylum seekers will likely have to wait in some of the most dangerous areas of Mexico, areas with the same “Tier 4” travel advisory as Syria, Iraq, and Afghanistan. There have been 1,544 publicly reported cases of assaults against asylum seekers in the Remain in Mexico program. 

There is no way to adequately provide legal counsel to those in the program, due to logistical and safety concerns. Only about 10 percent of asylum seekers placed in the Remain in Mexico program, also called the Migrant Protection Protocols, or MPP, receive legal representation.

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