Migrants Face Extortion In Mexico Awaiting Asylum Process Under Trump - Advocacy Group

EL PASO (Pakistan Point News / Sputnik - 03rd December, 2019) The Trump administration's Migrant Protection Protocols (MPP) program is leaving asylum-seekers exposed to extortion and other violence in Mexico while they wait for their asylum claims to process in the United States, Las Americas Immigrant Advocacy Center Executive Director Linda Rivas told Sputnik.

In January, the Trump administration implemented the MPP (also referred to as the Remain in Mexico policy), which forces migrants to wait in Mexico while their asylum claims process in the United States. In August, Human Rights First reported that there are more than 110 publicly reported cases of violent crimes against asylum seekers returned from the United States to Mexico under MPP.

"I would say that probably about sixty percent of the people that we've seen [at Las Americas Immigrant Advocacy Center] have suffered some level of violence in Mexico, so that's with MPP," Rivas said.

The number of migrants waiting in Ciudad Juarez, just across the southern border from El Paso, is 18,000 and 55,000 across the whole border under MPP, Rivas said.

Rivas further described several cases of their clients who have been exposed to kidnappings, rape or robbery.

"We represented a young woman and her daughter who were victimized not once but three times in Ciudad Juarez, robbed and then kidnapped for ransom and then an attempted break-in into their hotel room," Rivas said.

Rivas said most recently they represented a migrant woman who had been raped during her trek to the United States and they have medical documentation that her seven-year-old daughter was also raped.

The advocate also said their organization represented a young migrant woman who denounced Mexican state police that she was raped by members of the Mexican military. She added that they have "proof of all of this."

One migrant woman, she added, was allowed to come into the United States because she passed a non-refoulement (non-forcible return) interview, which is a policy that would prevent forcing refugees or asylum seekers to return to a country in which they may face persecution.

However, she emphasized that the standard for the non-refoulement review is incredibly high, higher than the asylum interview, and migrants have no access to due process.

Migrants have no access to legal counsel for the non-refoulement interview and sometimes additional evidence that immigration attorneys can submit is not considered, Rivas said.

"So something very horrific could've happened to somebody, they could have evidence and they have discretion to not look at the evidence and they have been directed to not allow attorneys to even be on the phone when those interviews take place," Rivas said.

Rivas said it is an unfair and unjust system currently for people trying to get out of Mexico.

"Many people have suffered rape and kidnapping because USCIS [US Citizenship and Immigration Services] is not finding that they meet the burden," she added.

On October 29, acting Customs and Border Protection (CBP) Commissioner Mark Morgan said US apprehensions of undocumented immigrants at the US-Mexico border reached more than 970,000 in fiscal year 2019, marking an 88 percent increase from last year. However, the agency has reported a more than 50 percent decline in apprehensions since May.

Caravans of migrants from Central American countries seeking asylum began to move toward the United States through Mexico last fall. US President Donald Trump called the surge of arrivals a crisis and declared a national emergency in February to secure funds to build a wall on the border with Mexico.