Fri. Jan 21st, 2022

Washington DC – Since early December, more than 200 migrants and refugees hoping to claim asylum in the United States have been sent back to Mexico to await their U.S. court hearings, a rights organization said, under a revived widely condemned Trump-era immigration policy .

The administration of President Joe Biden sought to end the Migration Protection Protocols (MPPs), saying the program had exposed migrants and refugees to unnecessary danger in mexico.

But a Texas court has ordered the policy – also known as Stay in Mexico – restarted in August, after Missouri and Texas sued the Biden administration, arguing that it had terminated the policy without following the proper procedures.

In early December, the Biden administration reinstated the program – with some changes – in line with the court’s decision. At the same time, it asked the Supreme Court to allow him to terminate the MPP.

But experts say the country’s Supreme Court is not expected to rule before the end of June, and in the meantime, asylum seekers could be sent back to Mexico under what immigration lawyers called “Stay in Mexico 2.0.”

Here Al Jazeera investigates what is going on:

What is the ‘Stay in Mexico’ program?

Former President Donald Trump, who has made immigration restrictions one of his main policy goals, created the MPP to deter migrants and refugees from making asylum claims he considered.

The policy, which came into effect in January 2019, people arriving at the border to seek asylum have been forced to wait months and sometimes years in Mexico for their U.S. immigration court hearings.

Some 70,000 people, including children, have been forced to wait in Mexican border villages, often in dangerous and unhygienic refugee camps, as a result of the policy. Their access to legal advice was also limited.

MPP has been heavily criticized by US and international law groups for saying it violates the US government’s obligations under both domestic and international law.

Migrant is escorted from the USAMigrants and refugees under the ‘Remain in Mexico’ program are escorted by Mexican officials after leaving the US [File: Gregory Bull/Reuters]

What did President Joe Biden do?

Biden kept a campaign promise and stopped new entries to the program on January 20, his first day in office – effectively suspending MPP.

In the following months his administration began relax the policy by allowing people who were still waiting in Mexico to enter the US to continue their asylum claims. From February, more than 25,000 people was placed on parole in the US.

Homeland Security Minister Alejandro Mayorkas issued a memo June 2021 to formally terminate the policy.

What happened then?

In August, Matthew Kacsmaryk, a judge appointed by Trump, ruled in favor of two Republican-led states that sued the Biden administration over the “arbitrary” termination of MPP. Kacsmaryk ordered the administration to reinstate the policy.

The Biden administration appealed against the decision U.S. Supreme Court, but it refused to block the Texas court’s ruling.

So, what does this mean for MPP?

The Biden administration has said it will abide by the Texas court order, but that it will continue to work to end the policy. It later said it would make the MPP more “humane”.

Mayorkas issued a second memo to end the MPP in October 2021 which addressed the issues raised by the states that sued. In a 39-page explanation, Mayorkas said despite the fact that MPP had contributed to a reduction in the arrival of migrants and refugees at the border, MPP unnecessarily endangered people while waiting in Mexico.

“MPP had endemic defects, imposed unjustifiable human costs, diverted resources and staff from other priority efforts, and did not address the root causes of irregular migration,” Mayorkas said.

Temporary trek in MexicoMigrants and refugees under the “Stay in Mexico” program stayed in a temporary camp in Matamoros, Tamaulipas, Mexico [File: Loren Elliott/Reuters]

So when did ‘Remain in Mexico 2.0’ come into effect?

The policy went into effect on December 6, and the first two migrants returned to Mexico December 8.

Is this new iteration of the policy different from the previous one?

The Biden administration has promised to make advocacy more accessible to asylum seekers – only 9 percent of MPP entries could access lawyers under the previous version of MPP, according to the Migration Policy Institute – and that cases should be settled within 180 days.

Mexico has also requested that “particularly vulnerable populations”, including people with mental and physical disabilities, the elderly, those with diseases and LGBTQ people, be exempted from the program.

Have these promises been kept?

Immigration lawyers say no. Yael Schacher, Deputy Director for the Americas and Europe at Refugees International, attended the first two days of MPP hearings on January 3 and 4 in El Paso, Texas. Schacher told El Paso Matters, a nonprofit media organization, that only five of 82 people enrolled at MPP who heard their cases in those days had access to legal advice.

Aaron Reichlin-Melnick, policy advocate at the US Immigration Service, also said “the problem of access to counsel continues”.

He told Al Jazeera that the Biden administration “can not solve the fundamental problem that those stuck in northern Mexico with almost no resources and little security are going to have a very difficult time finding American lawyers to prosecute them. do not help with their asylum matters. ” .

Migrants queuing in MexicoMigrants and refugees in the ‘Remain in Mexico’ program queue outside the National Migration Institute (INM) [File: Jose Luis Gonzalez/Reuters]

How many people were sent to Mexico under the new version of MPP?

In an email to Al Jazeera, the US Department of Homeland Security (DHS) said it would not say how many people had returned, or at what border crossings.

But according to data collected by Human Rights First, a U.S.-based rights group that coordinates with Mexico’s Institute for National Migration (INM), 217 male adults who traveled alone returned to Mexico amid the MPP’s latest iteration between December 8 and January 4.

More than half – 135 people – were from Nicaragua, and 46 were from Venezuela. The other people sent back under MPP were from Cuba, Ecuador and Colombia.

How does the removal process work?

Under the new version of the policy, migrants and refugees are temporarily detained in DHS facilities until they can be questioned by an asylum officer who will assess their “reasonable” fear of returning to Mexico – known as a non-refoulement interview.

If they are considered “safe” to return to Mexico, they are then driven across the border. The MPP is currently applied at two border crossings: El Paso, Texas and San Diego, California. The program is expected to be scaled up to include five additional access ports.

Once in Mexico, INM officials are charged with taking them to a Mexican government-funded facility, where they will remain until their next U.S. court hearing. Mexican officials drove MPP applicants back and forth to the border.

Migrant family waiting near temporary trek campDuring the first iteration of MPP and through February 2021, Human Rights First stated that at least 1,544 migrants and refugees in the program in Mexico had been killed, assaulted, robbed, abducted or raped [File: Henry Romero/Reuters]

What do legal groups say about this process?

Law groups say the non-refoulement interviews are problematic because asylum seekers are not adequately informed about their purpose and implications.

“Many people did not know they had the right to speak to a lawyer before their non-refoulement interview about their fear of returning to Mexico,” said Julia Neusner, a refugee protection lawyer at Human Rights First. which tracked the progress of the MPP. .

“People did not understand what the purpose of the interview was and as a result, those who had legal fears of being returned to Mexico were returned under the program,” Neusner told Al Jazeera, adding that several applicants who had previously been abducted or extorted. was enrolled in the program by Mexican police.

Is anything else different to the new policy?

In the original program, only citizens of Spanish-speaking countries and Brazilians were included in MPP removals.

The new MPP has been expanded to include all residents of the Western Hemisphere, excluding Mexico. This means that Haitians, along with migrants and refugees from other Caribbean nations, can now be placed in MPP. This extension was not required by the Texas court order.

Is it safe for people to be sent to Mexico?

During the first iteration of the MPP, and by February 2021, Human Rights First stated that at least 1,544 migrants and refugees in the program in Mexico had been killed, assaulted, robbed, abducted or raped. Many have abandoned their asylum claims altogether.

The legal group says security issues for migrants and refugees has not been resolved.

“There is no conceivable way to make Remain in Mexico safe and humane, let alone legal,” said Kennji Kizuka, co-director of refugee protection research and analysis at Human Rights First, during a recent virtual briefing.

“And given these inherent dangers, it is horribly inevitable that there will be more reports of kidnappings and attacks from the people now being sent back under the latest version of the policy.”

Source link

By admin

Leave a Reply

Your email address will not be published. Required fields are marked *