US Quakers denounce policy forcing asylum seekers to stay in Mexico

By agency reporter
January 28, 2019

On 25 January 2019, the Trump administration began implementing a policy that forces Central Americans seeking asylum to return to Mexico for an indefinite amount of time while their claims are processed. The American Friends Service Committee (AFSC), a Quaker organisation that works against the militarisation of border communities and in support of migrants on both sides of the US-Mexico border, spoke out against the policy.

“Migrants have a right to seek asylum in the US, and to remain here while their claims are processed”, said Kathryn Johnson, Policy Advocacy Coordinator for AFSC. “This policy – which is a clear violation of both US and international law – puts asylum seekers in danger and goes directly against Congress’ intent to protect vulnerable people from persecution”. In December, two Honduran teenagers traveling with the migrant caravan to seek refuge in the US were killed in Tijuana after leaving a shelter for underage migrants.

“It’s concerning that the US is taking these opaque actions that violate human rights”, said Karen Romero, an AFSC consultant based in Tijuana. “We wonder what people will do as they wait, knowing that the asylum process can take years. The majority of shelters are already full of Mexican nationals who have been returned from the US, internally displaced people, and Central Americans from the caravans. This situation will pose a huge challenge to the shelters to provide support. If the Mexican government is accepting asylum seekers who are being returned from the US, the Mexican Government must provide a plan to guarantee humanitarian assistance and safety without overburdening civil society.”

In Tijuana, AFSC is providing humanitarian support to migrants from the caravan, strengthening the capacity of shelters to provide support, monitoring the conditions and needs of the people, and providing winter clothes, playful activities for children, and free phone calls so migrants can call family members back home.

On the US side of the border, AFSC organises for just and humane immigration policies. Near the San Ysidro port of entry, AFSC staff are helping support migrants who are targeted. “This egregious policy shift will exacerbate risks for vulnerable migrants, who are already frustrated and overwhelmed with Customs and Border Protection’s metering system of slowing down the intake process for asylum-seekers”, said Pedro Rios, director of AFSC’s US-Mexico Border Programme in San Diego. "Instead of endangering our communities with illegal and inhumane policies, US authorities should concentrate their resources on expediting asylum requests and safeguarding human rights.”

* American Friends Service Committee


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