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Statement on MPP Policy for U.S. House Homeland Security Committee

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Statement submitted to the U.S. House of Representatives Committee on Homeland Security Hearing on Examining the Human Rights and Legal Implications of DHS’ ‘Remain in Mexico’ Policy November 19, 2019:

​HIAS, the American Jewish community’s global refugee organization, remains deeply opposed to the Migrant Protection Protocols, the “Remain in Mexico” policy, and all other efforts to keep asylum seekers away from our border and out of our asylum system. The right to seek asylum stems from the 1951 Refugee Convention and has been the law in this country since the 1980 Refugee Act. In the year since the Migrant Protection Protocols were first announced by the Department of Homeland Security, nearly 50,000 asylum seekers have been sent back to Mexico to wait weeks - or in some cases months - for their court hearings. In Mexico, these asylum seekers are facing a devastating humanitarian crisis that has been caused by the U.S. government’s policies that show a complete disregard for the safety and humanity of people fleeing violence and persecution in our region, many of whom are children.

Many refugees returned to Mexico find themselves in cities that have Department of State Travel Advisory warnings on par with countries like Syria. With little money, no opportunity for work, and unstable shelter, returned asylum seekers become targets for organized criminal groups and corrupt law enforcement agents who routinely kidnap, torture, rape, and extort them. In Ciudad Juarez, Mexico, women told HIAS staff that they feared leaving the migrant shelter because they could see their persecutors from their home countries standing outside of the gates. For thousands who are not able to find shelter and protection at all, sleeping on the streets in front of ports-of-entry, without adequate access to water, food, or proper sanitation is their best option.

HIAS is concerned that as numbers of migrants placed in MPP continues to grow, the backlog for court dates will increase, leading to longer wait times and more strain on shelters and assistance providers in Mexico. With little support from the U.S. and Mexican governments, and NGOs unable to meet the enormous needs, asylum seekers endure even more threatening and dire conditions. HIAS urges significant oversight of the Remain in Mexico policy, with special attention to the devastating humanitarian impact of this policy. We call on Congress to enact legislation that reinforces and strengthens laws that protect the right to seek asylum and reject the administration’s policies to deter, harm, and punish refugees at our Southern border seeking safety.