Delivered to Danger

Trump Administration sending asylum seekers and migrants to danger

Forced returns to Mexico: At least 636 publicly reported cases of rape, torture, kidnapping & other violent assaults
Current as of December 5, 2019

Trump Administration Sending Asylum Seekers and Migrants to Danger

The U.S. government is forcing 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 December 4, 2019, there are at least 636 publicly reported cases of 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 138 cases of children returned to Mexico who were kidnapped or nearly kidnapped.

Download the List of Cases

Mario Tama/Getty Images

Joe Raedle/Getty Images

John Moore/Getty Images

These figures are likely only the tip of the iceberg, as the vast majority of the 60,000 individuals already returned to Mexico have not been interviewed by reporters or human rights researchers, let alone spoken to an attorney. Only 2 percent of the individuals stranded by the Trump Administration in Mexico have managed to find a U.S. lawyer to help them apply for asylum.

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

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.

Senior Trump Administration officials claim that they don’t believe that the refugees and migrants the U.S. has returned to Mexico are being kidnapped and attacked there. But this willful blindness is no defense for a policy that clearly jeopardizes the safety and very lives of the children, women, and men sent back to Mexico.

Hold the Trump Administration Accountable

Report human rights abuses against people forced by the Trump Administration to remain in danger.

Trump Administration policies, including Remain in Mexico, have virtually closed the doors to asylum seekers at the U.S. southern border. ACLU

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 claims this dangerous policy is an alternative to separating families at the border and holding them in detention centers. In reality, the program is yet another move 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 —

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

Contact Congress

Tell your representatives in Congress to cut off funding for the Trump Administration's 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

  • Human Rights First, "Human Rights Fiasco: The Trump Administration's Dangerous Asylum Returns Continue" (December 2019)
  • American Immigration Council, Statement on the Migrant Protection Protocols to the House Homeland Security Subcommittee on Border Security (November 2019)
  • Catholic Legal Immigration Network, Inc., "Seven Migrant Protection Protocols Stories from Estamos Unidos: Asylum Project" (November 2019)
  • IMUMI, Kidnappings of Asylum Seekers along the Northern Mexican Border (November 2019)
  • U.S. Immigration Policy Center, “Seeking Asylum” study on fear of return and harm to returned asylum seekers in Mexico (October 2019)
  • Human Rights Watch, “Risks at Border for Those with Disabilities” (October 2019)
  • Physicians for Human Rights, “‘If I went back, I would not survive.’ Asylum Seekers Fleeing Violence in Mexico and Central America” (October 2019)
  • Human Rights First, “Orders from Above: Massive Human Rights Abuses under Trump Administration Return to Mexico Policy” (October 2019) (en español)
  • Human Rights Watch, “US Move Puts More Asylum Seekers at Risk: Expanded ‘Remain in Mexico’ Program Undermines Due Process” (September 2019)
  • Doctors Without Borders, “US ‘Remain in Mexico’ Policy Endangers Lives of Asylum Seekers in Tamaulipas State” (September 2019)
  • WOLA, Six Points About the U.S.-Mexico Migration Agreement and the Latest Border Apprehension Numbers (September 2019)
  • Human Rights First, “Delivered to Danger: Illegal Remain in Mexico Policy Imperils Asylum Seekers’ Lives and Denies Due Process” (August 2019)
  • Human Rights Watch, “‘We Can’t Help You Here’: US Returns of Asylum Seekers to Mexico” (July 2019)
  • Human Rights First, “The Trump Administration’s Migrant Persecution Protocols” (June 2019)
  • HOPE Border Institute, Remain in Mexico Updates (June 2019)
  • Refugees International, “‘Remain in Mexico’ Policy Pushes Asylum Seekers into Grave Dangers” (May 2019)
  • Women’s Refugee Commission, “Chaos, Confusion, and Danger: The Remain in Mexico Program in El Paso” (May 2019)
  • Human Rights First, “Congress and Courts Mislead About Trump Administration Policy Forcing Asylum Seekers to “Remain in Mexico” (May 2019)
  • ACLU, “Trump’s New Policy is Stranding Asylum Seekers in Mexico” (March 2019)
  • Human Rights First, “A Sordid Scheme: The Trump Administration’s Illegal Return of Asylum Seekers to Mexico” (February/March 2019)
  • American Immigration Council, American Immigration Lawyers Association, CLINIC, “Substantial Evidence Demonstrating Catastrophic Harms That Will Befall Migrants in Mexico with Continued Implementation and Further Expansion of Migrant Protection Protocols” (February 2019)

INVESTIGATIONS AND LAWSUITS

  • Doe v. McAleenan
  • Innovation Law Lab v. McAleenan
  • AILA, Letter to Congress Demanding Public Access to Tent Courts (November 2019)
  • NGOs Urge Congress to Conduct Significant Oversight of Remain in Mexico and Use of Tent Courts by DHS and DOJ (October 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)
  • 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

  • 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)