A woman arrived Tuesday with her 8-year-old son at his court hearing in a tent set up in Laredo, Texas. Both are under the Migrant Protection Protocols (MPP), which forces them to wait in Mexico for the resolution of their asylum cases and allows them to cross into the United States just to see the judge. That evening, three family members were supposed to appear on the date, but her husband has been missing since September and that's why she didn't show up that afternoon. She, crying, said she does not know if he was kidnapped, killed or disappeared. Similarly, due to his absence, the judge ordered the deportation of the immigrant.
The case was seen through a video call by lawyer Rebecca Gendelman, of the legal team of the Human Rights First organization, who was in the same room as the judge. The lawyer considers that the insecurity to which immigrants are exposed under MPP is one of the reasons why in court this week, for example, of 31 people who had a hearing, only four arrived; and in another room, only 63 arrived from 63.RELATED
For her, the absenteeism in the tents at the border is also due to the fear that migrants have to be victims of kidnappings, assaults, rapes, extortion or robberies when they are on their way to their hearings or just crossing the border ports back from the United States to Mexico, as happened to two women who were kidnapped in September in Nuevo Laredo when they arrived back in Mexico after their hearings that day.
"Based on our research, we believe that the high rates of kidnappings and attacks contribute to people not being able to reach their audiences. We also have reports of immigrants who have been abducted on the way to their hearings or on the way back. It is dangerous for some of they even go to their courts, "Gendelman explains to Univision News.
Human Rights First has heard these testimonies in these video calls and when talking with migrants at the border. In three days of presence in the court of San Antonio, Gendelman says he saw, for example, two teenagers, aged 12 and 16, pleading with the judge not to return them to Mexico because they had already been kidnapped upon his return from the hearing previous; there was another mother who arrived with her 2-year-old child, both had been abducted, so she said she preferred to be deported to her country rather than being returned to Mexico, and the judge obeyed and signed her expulsion from the country.
Despite what the migrants report in the courts, the acting commissioner of the Office of Customs and Border Protection (CBP), Mark Morgan, doubted the testimonies – widely denounced since the start of the MPP – and in a wheel of Press in September cataloged them as "anecdotes." He said then that the Mexican government had not been able to verify the truthfulness of those stories.
The videoconferences that are being heard by lawyers from different organizations, are those that have been held since September as part of a program to allegedly speed up traffic jams in asylum hearings in the country which, according to an independent registry of the University of Syracuse, they add a million backward cases. It has been implemented in Laredo and Brownsville: migrants have their audiences under white tents installed next to border bridges and speak by video call with judges from San Antonio, Port Isabel and Harlingen, as appropriate. Then they are returned again to border cities of the most violent in Mexico – such as Nuevo Laredo, Matamoros or Tijuana – where they must wait for months to resolve their cases.
Various organizations – including Amnesty International, ACLU and Human Rights First – have denounced that although immigrants claim to have been victims and even have an interview with asylum officers to explain what happened to them, they are returned to Mexico "at the hands" of his kidnappers, "Gendelman condemns.
The objective: asylum seekers
The fear of migrants to be returned to Mexico is not the story of a few. The Immigration Policy Center, which investigates the consequences of migrant policies, surveyed 607 asylum seekers in Tijuana and Mexicali between July and October 2019. About 9 out of 10 said they were afraid of being returned: 40.4% of them had a interview with an asylum officer to explain the reasons for his fear and 59.6% of them do not. And among those who are heard, 6 out of 10 are returned to Mexico without even investigating the truthfulness of their testimonies.
Human Rights First counts different cases in your report that are not even considered for a second check. Among them, that of a Honduran asylum seeker who, along with his 9-year-old son, was returned to Matamoros without having an interview with an asylum officer confirming the reasons for his fear. That despite explaining to the CBP official that they had been kidnapped in Mexico and that he had been tortured by Tamaulipas government officials, who burned different parts of his body with cigarette lighters. As he told the organization, the CBP agent threatened to separate him from his son if he insisted on his fear of returning to Mexico.
They also tell the testimony of another pregnant asylum seeker who CBP also failed to review his fear of returning to Mexico. She said she had been kidnapped in Nuevo Laredo, and although activists insistently tried to have her removed from the program – because she was pregnant and because of her fears – she was returned to Mexico in September.
Among those who were heard but still returned to Mexico is the case of a Guatemalan who told the asylum officer of her kidnapping in Ciudad Juarez and that her assailants once they released her, continued to threaten her, even at night while she was sleeping. in the hostel She explained that they had stolen her MPP documents themselves and knew exactly when her next court date was; He reiterated then his fear of being kidnapped again while going to the port of entry for his court. Even so, the official considered that there were not enough reasons for his fear and returned it to Mexico.
Faced with these situations and the tragedies he heard during his visit to the court of San Antonio, Rebecca Gendleman says that migrants who are afraid of going to their courts or asking for their deportations will continue adding: "I cannot imagine the trauma they are experiencing ( …) They are children and adolescents who are being kidnapped and then forced to remain in Mexico. "
So are the new immigration courts installed in tents at the border (photos)
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