JRS/Mexico: JRS Accompanies Asylum Seekers Forced to Remain in Mexico
27 September 2019|Andrea Villaseñor, JRS Mexico Country Director
The mother and her children were warned. Days after the daughter saw a drug deal happen at school, a boy came to the door of their house in a neighborhood outside Tegucigalpa, Honduras, and told them they had three days to leave the country before the gang would come and kill them all. They knew what happened to enemies of the gangs. They left.
The father of the children lives in the United States. He encouraged them to seek safety from the reach of the gang there. They knew that for that to happen they would need to present themselves at the United States border. They crossed into Mexico.
After traveling for several days into Mexico, they were kidnapped. Supported by a contact in the U.S., they paid the extortion money to be released and crossed the border, wading, chest-deep across the swirling Rio Brava. They were arrested by U.S. Customs and Border Patrol and were detained for a week.
The U.S. government gave them a court date in two months and sent them back to Mexico, a place where they had already been kidnapped and extorted. They were dropped off in Nuevo Laredo, Mexico – near the U.S. border – where the Mexican migration commission told them to return to Tapachula, near the Mexico/Guatemala border. Tapachula is nearly 1,400 miles from U.S. border – as far as Miami is from Chicago.
This is a family that JRS Mexico is accompanying as they wait to seek asylum in the United States. JRS is making sure they have a place to stay, enough food to eat, and enough money to take a bus back to the U.S. border for their court date.
Announced in January 2019, the U.S. Government’s “Remain in Mexico” policy sends asylum seekers back to Mexico after they have presented their asylum claim at the U.S. southern border. They are faced with the daunting task of surviving in Mexico and navigating the U.S. asylum system, often from hundreds of miles away
The news would have you believe that Mexicans don’t want vulnerable Hondurans, Guatemalans and Salvadorians in our country, but that’s not true. We want them to be safe. We want to be safe ourselves. But the notion that Mexico is a safe place for people to “wait” is false. Anyone reading the daily papers or living in Mexican regions controlled by organized crime knows that Mexico can be a dangerous place where people are killed. People fleeing Central American countries know it, Mexicans know it and the U.S. government knows it too.
U.S. courts are deliberating the legality of the Remain in Mexico policy and other attempts by the U.S. Government to limit protections offered to asylum seekers. The Supreme Court recently ruled that migrants who have resided in, or traveled through, third countries are prohibited from seeking asylum in the U.S.
It has become critical that organizations like JRS Mexico provide the infrastructure necessary to keep asylum seekers safe, housed, and fed as courts in Mexico and the United States process the number of claims. JRS Mexico continues to accompany people seeking safety by providing emergency shelter and psychosocial support.
Americans can voice their support for asylum seekers by encouraging their elected representatives to protect human rights and end dangerous policies like Remain in Mexico.