Delivered to Danger

U.S. Government sending asylum seekers and migrants to danger

Forced returns to Mexico: At least 1,544 publicly reported cases of murder, rape, torture, kidnapping & other violent assaults
Current as of February 19, 2021

U.S. Government Sending Asylum Seekers and Migrants to Danger

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Between January 2019 and January 2021, the Trump administration forced tens of thousands of asylum seekers and migrants, including at least 16,000 children and nearly 500 infants under the age of one, to return to Mexico under the “Migrant Protection Protocols”—better known as the “Remain in Mexico” policy.

In Mexico, waiting months for immigration court hearings in the United States, these families and other returned asylum seekers and migrants face grave dangers. As of February 19, 2021, there were at least 1,544 publicly reported cases of murder, rape, torture, kidnapping, and other violent assaults against asylum seekers and migrants forced to return to Mexico by the Trump administration under this illegal scheme. Among these reported attacks are 341 cases of children returned to Mexico who were kidnapped or nearly kidnapped.

Download the list

In February 2021, the Biden administration suspended use of "Remain in Mexico" to return additional asylum seekers and migrants to Mexico and began a process to wind down the policy, which resulted in more than 12,000 people removed from the program and permitted to enter the United States to continue the U.S. asylum process in safety. At the same time, however, the Biden administration continued to use the Trump administration's Title 42 policy - based on specious public health claims about the pandemic - to block people coming to the U.S. border in search of safety and expel them to Mexico and/or directly to the country they were fleeing without an opportunity to request asylum. 

Following a memo issued by the Biden administration in June 2021, Texas and Missouri challenged the administration's attempt to formally end the "Remain in Mexico" policy. After a series of federal court decisions that have paused the formal termination and re-termination of the "Remain in Mexico" policy, the Biden administration announced in December 2021 that it would re-implement and, reportedly, had chosen to expand the return policy in some ways to force migrants and asylum seekers from anywhere in the "Western Hemisphere" to wait in danger in Mexico - while it also continued to use Title 42 to illegally expel asylum seekers.

The current number of reported kidnapping and attacks is likely only the tip of the iceberg - and sure to grow as the Biden administration resumes forced returns to Mexico. Indeed, the vast majority of the more than 70,000 individuals who were returned to Mexico during its first implementation under the Trump administration were not interviewed by reporters or human rights researchers, let alone spoke to an attorney. Nintety-seventy percent of the individuals stranded by the Trump Administration in Mexico whose cases were decided under this policy lacked a U.S. lawyer to help them apply for asylum.

MPP Explained RAICES

U.S. government officials know that these regions of the border are extremely dangerous. The U.S. State Department’s travel advisories warn U.S. citizens not to travel to some of the same Mexican border towns where U.S. authorities send asylum seekers to wait for immigration court hearings. These areas are designated as level 4 threats—the same danger assessment as for Afghanistan, Iraq, and Syria.

Hold the U.S. Government Accountable

Report human rights abuses against people forced to remain in danger.

Eduardo*, a Nicaraguan political activist seeking asylum in the U.S. was kidnapped in Mexico, the Trump Administration sent him back there anyway. Human Rights First

Mommy, I don't want to die.
A 7-year-old girl to her mother after the Trump Administration returned them to Nuevo Laredo, where they were kidnapped

The Trump administration falsely claimed this dangerous policy was an alternative to separating families at the border and holding them in detention centers. In reality, the program was an attempt by President Trump and his administration’s leadership to block, ban, and frighten asylum seekers from asking for protection in the United States—even if those policies cost refugees their lives.

The following are just a few of their stories —

Murdered

A Salvadoran father returned to Mexico by the Trump administration was brutally stabbed to death and possibily tortured in Tijuana in November 2019. The man and his wife and two children had reportedly repeatedly told immigration officers, an immigration judge and asylum officers that they feared being returned to Mexico but they were not removed from the program. The man's widow said: “I told the judge that I was afraid for my children because we were in a horrible, horrible place, and we didn’t feel safe here."

Cristian San Martín Estrada, a 19-year-old Cuban asylum seeker, who was returned to Mexico by the Trump administration in 2019 was shot to death in Ciudad Juárez in May 2021. Cristian was murdered a few days before he was set to be allowed into the United States through the Biden administration intial attempt to winddown Remain in Mexico. Cristian’s uncle, a U.S. citizen who had traveled to Juárez to bring Cristian home, held him in his arms as he died.

 

Kidnapped and Raped

Two Cuban women were repeatedly raped in Mexico, then returned there by the Trump administration to more danger. In April 2019, armed men abducted three Cuban asylum seekers–Lilia*, Yasmin* and Yasmin’s partner–while waiting for a taxi near Ciudad Juárez. Imprisoned for a week, Lilia and Yasmin were repeatedly raped by multiple men. Eventually ransomed, the three spent weeks in hiding until they were finally able to request asylum at the El Paso port of entry, where they had placed their names on the asylum wait “list” three weeks prior to the kidnapping. However, U.S. border officers returned Lilia and Yasmin to Ciudad Juárez without giving them a chance to explain their fear of being returned there. Back in Mexico, Yasmin said, “we feel totally destroyed.” She added, “I’m afraid of the men who kidnapped and raped us… we almost never go out.…  We’re still in hiding. Everyone here can tell that we’re Cuban because of the way that we dress, the way that our faces and bodies look, and the way that we talk. I’m afraid that what happened to me before will happen to me again.” 

You’re literally sending people back to be raped and killed.
-Former U.S. asylum officer

An Afro-Honduran woman returned to Mexico by the Trump administration was kidnapped and raped. After the U.S. government sent a Honduran woman back to Mexico, she was reportedly kidnapped by a group of men in Mexican federal police uniforms and repeatedly raped. According to her attorney, Linda Rivas of Las Americas Immigrant Advocacy Center in El Paso, she is a member of the Afro-Caribbean Garifuna minority. Customs and Border Protection officers returned her to Ciudad Juárez even though she told them she “had a target on her back” because of her race. They expelled her without giving her an opportunity to explain her fear to an asylum officer.

Another Honduran asylum seeker returned to Mexico was kidnapped, raped, and forced into sexual slavery: After U.S. border officials returned Gisela* to Mexico, a trafficker kidnapped her as she left a migration office. She was raped and forced into sexual slavery for three months. She escaped only when one of her captors assisted her in exchange for sex. Forced into hiding at a Juárez church shelter, she was not safe even there. The parish priest told her that an unknown man had come looking for her.

I’m afraid of the men who kidnapped and raped us… we almost never go out. We’re still in hiding.
Yasmin*, Cuban asylum seeker returned by Trump Administration to Ciudad Juárez

Tortured

A Honduran boy and his parents were kidnapped, and the father was tortured and disappeared: According to El Diario, a three-year-old boy from Honduras and his parents were kidnapped after U.S. border officials returned them to Nuevo Laredo. The boy’s parents were separated, and the woman reported hearing the kidnappers beat and electrocute her husband. When she last saw him lying on the ground, beaten and bleeding, he told her, “Love, they’re going to kill us.” The woman and her three-year-old son were released but she does not know if her husband is alive.

Love, they’re going to kill us.
A Honduran asylum seeker returned by the Trump Administration to Mexico tells his wife after being tortured by their kidnappers

Take Action

Tell the Biden Administration to end the illegal forced return of asylum seekers and migrants to danger. 

Accountability

FILE A COMPLAINT WITH THE DEPARTMENT OF HOMELAND SECURITY

Office of Inspector General

Office for Civil Rights and Civil Liberties

REPORT ABUSES AGAINST RETURNED ASYLUM SEEKERS AND MIGRANTS TO HUMAN RIGHTS INVESTIGATORS

  • Send an email with information on human rights abuses under the Remain in Mexico policy to [email protected] Investigators will contact you to follow up on your report.

REPORTS OF HUMAN RIGHTS ABUSES UNDER THE REMAIN IN MEXICO POLICY

INVESTIGATIONS, LAWSUITS AND CONGRESSIONAL HEARINGS

  • P.R. v. Wolf
  • Immigrant Defenders Law Center v. Wolf
  • BIA case on MPP notice and advisals
    • Amicus Brief of Border Legal and Humanitarian Service Providers (October 2020)
    • Amicus Brief of Tahirih Justice Center, the American Immigration Council, the American Immigration Lawyers Association, HIAS, the Fred T. Korematsu Center for Law and Equality, and Human Rights First (October 2020)
    • Amicus Invitation (September 2020)
  • Salim-Adrianza v. Trump 
  • Matter of M-D-C-V-
    • Amicus Brief of CLINIC, HIAS, Human Rights First, Immigrant Defenders Law Center, Jewish Family Service of San Diego, Public Counsel, and Tahirih Justice Center (October 2020)
    • BIA Decision (July 2020)
  • Turcios v. Wolf
  • American Immigration Council v. USCIS
  • Nora v. Wolf
  • Bollat Vasquez v. Wolf
    • Amicus Brief of Asylum Officers' Union (August 2020)
    • Amicus Brief of Former Government Officials (August 2020)
    • Amicus Brief of Immigration and Refugee Legal Services Providers, LawSchool Clinics, and Community Organizations (August 2020)
    • Order (May 2020)
    • Complaint (March 2020)
  • Constanza Lemus v. Wolf
  • Doe v. McAleenan
  • Innovation Law Lab v. McAleenan
  • Committee on Homeland Security, House of Representatives, "Examining the Human Rights and Legal Implications of DHS’s ‘Remain in Mexico’ Policy" (November 2019)
  • ACLU, Complaint to DHS OIG/CRCL regarding “Pregnant women returned to Mexico under the 'Migration Protection Protocols' (MPP)” (September 2019)
  • Human Rights First, Complaint to DHS OIG/CRCL regarding “Rape, Kidnapping, Assault and Other Attacks on Asylum Seekers and Migrants Returned to Mexico Under the ‘Migrant Protection Protocols’; Returns of Other Vulnerable Individuals” (August 2019)
  • Women’s Refugee Commission, Complaint to DHS OIG/CRCL regarding “Separation of Families via the ‘Migrant Protection Protocols’” (August 2019)

NGO LETTERS, TESTIMONY AND STATEMENTS

  • Refugees International, "Testimony for the Inter-American Commission on Human Rights: Hearing on the Human Rights Situation of Migrants and Refugees in the United States" (November 2021)
  • Letter to Biden Administration from Legal Service Providers on MPP (October 2021)
  • Letter to Biden Administration on MPP (August 2021)
  • Letter and Recommendations on MPP Wind Down (May 2021)
  • Letter to DHS and State Department on MPP Wind Down Process (March 2021)
  • Letter to DHS regarding CBP blocking MPP fear screenings (June 2020)
  • Letter to DHS from 27 service providers regarding MPP and COVID-19, and urging DHS to end MPP and parole asylum seekers into the United States (April 2020)
  • Letter to DHS from 23 legal, faith-based, humanitarian, and community organizations providing legal and other assistance to asylum seekers and migrants subjected to MPP urging the policy's immediate termination (January 2020)
  • ACLU and the Center for Gender & Refugee Studies, Letter to DHS Demanding Immediate Halt of MPP Returns to Tamaulipas, Mexico (December 2019)
  • AILA, Letter to Congress Demanding Public Access to Tent Courts (November 2019)
  • Human Rights Watch, "Examining the Human Rights and Legal Implications of DHS’s ‘Remain in Mexico’ Policy" (November 2019)
  • Refugees International, Statement to House Committee on Homeland Security (November 2019)
  • NGOs Urge Congress to Conduct Significant Oversight of Remain in Mexico and Use of Tent Courts by DHS and DOJ (October 2019)
  • Testimony of Yael Schacher, Refugees International, to the Inter-American Commission on Human Rights (IACHR) regarding “Remain in Mexico” (August 2019)
  • AILA, Letter to DHS Acting Secretary Detailing MPP’s Barriers to Counsel (June 2019)

U.S. GOVERNMENT WARNINGS AND REPORTS OF DANGER IN MEXICO

  • U.S. State Department, Mexico 2018 Human Rights Report
  • U.S. State Department, Travel Advisory on Mexico
  • U.S. State Department, OSAC, Mexico 2019 Crime & Safety Report: Ciudad Juarez
  • U.S. State Department, OSAC, Mexico 2019 Crime & Safety Report: Matamoros
  • U.S. State Department, OSAC, Mexico 2019 Crime & Safety Report: Nuevo Laredo
  • U.S. State Department, OSAC, Mexico 2019 Crime & Safety Report: Tijuana

U.S. LAW AND TREATIES VIOLATED BY TRUMP ADMINISTRATION RETURN POLICIES

STATEMENTS BY INTERNATIONAL BODIES

  • UNHCR, "UNHCR comment on reinstatement of U.S. policy that endangers asylum seekers" (December 2021)
  • UNHCR, "UNHCR welcomes U.S. renewed effort to end policy that endangers asylum-seekers" (October 2021)
  • IACHR, "IACHR Concerned About Restrictions of the Rights of Migrants and Refugees in the United States During COVID-19 Pandemic" (July 2020)
  • IACHR, “IACHR conducted visit to the United States’ Southern Border” (September 2019)
  • IACHR, “IACHR Expresses Deep Concern about the Situation of Migrants and Refugees in the United States, Mexico, and Central America” (July 2019)
  • Special rapporteur on the human rights of migrants, Letter of concern regarding the “Remain in Mexico” policy (March 2019)
  • UNHCR, "UNHCR statement on new US regulation on asylum" (November 2018)