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September 27, 2019

End of asylum?

Opinion

September 27, 2019

A little boy living in a refugee camp, essentially in exile. In a city known for kidnappings and murders, and in a shelter with inadequate resources and supplies.

Most striking were the circumstances: The child was an American citizen, yet the shelter he resided in was located a few miles from the United States. Why, then, was he not living in his own country?

This is the distorted result of Remain in Mexico – officially called the Migrant Protection Protocols (MPP) – in which the administration forces asylum seekers from Central America to stay in Mexico to await their court dates, rather than allowing them to stay with sponsors in the United States.

In Mexico these migrants have nearly no access to family members, lawyers, or other support. Shelters and employment are woefully inadequate.

This child, a US citizen, faced the heart-wrenching choice of either staying in the United States motherless, or remaining in Ciudad Juarez, Mexico, with his mother, who was seeking refuge in the United States after fleeing violence in Honduras.

In international law, the principle of non-refoulement means that a person should not be returned to danger, whether in their country of origin or in another country.

Yet migrants are being sent to parts of Mexico with high levels of violence, as documented by Human Rights Watch and Human Rights First. Asylum officers from the Department of Homeland Security have themselves criticized the policy as unlawful, with some refusing to implement it at the risk of losing their jobs.

The outcome of a lawsuit from The American Civil Liberties Union, Southern Poverty Law Center, and Center for Gender & Refugee Studies is still pending. Meanwhile the numbers of people waiting in Mexico are growing both due to MPP, and to a process called metering, which limits the number of asylum seekers admitted each day.

And those are the people who at least in theory can be considered for asylum in the US.

Others’ opportunities have been curtailed by the Supreme Court’s decision to allow implementation of a rule that makes people ineligible to request asylum in the US if they have passed through another country without applying for – and being denied – asylum there.

This means that, with few exceptions, anyone crossing the US southern border who is not from Mexico would not be eligible if they presented themselves after July 16, 2019. To further intensify the situation, the US has signed an agreement with El Salvador – and seeks to do so with Honduras – in which migrants entering that country would need to seek asylum there, not in the US.

Excerpted from: ‘The End of Asylum?’.

Commondreams.org