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“I regularly witness the dire impacts”: PHR Medical Expert Testifies on “Remain in Mexico” Policy at U.S. House Committee Hearing

Dr. Todd Schneberk offers damning portrait of U.S. asylum policies to the House Committee on Homeland Security Hearing on the Migrant Protection Protocols, also known as “Remain in Mexico”

Speaking at the first-ever U.S. House of Representatives hearing dedicated to the Migrant Protection Protocols (MPP), Physicians for Human Rights medical expert Todd Schneberk, MD said the Trump administration policy was inflicting grave risks on asylum seekers and should be “halted and defunded immediately.”

As an emergency physician who has provided medical care to asylum seekers in Tijuana, Mexico over the past four years, Dr. Schneberk has seen first-hand how MPP “puts migrant women, children, and men directly in harm’s way.” He gave members of the House Homeland Security Committee, Subcommittee on Border Security a medical and human rights assessment of this disastrous policy and how it “compounds the massive trauma that forced [asylum seekers] to flee their homes.” Some 50,000 asylum seekers have been forcibly returned to Mexican border cities under this dangerous and inhumane Trump administration policy.

Dr. Schneberk’s full remarks are available here and he is available for media interviews.

Dr. Todd Schneberk is the co-director of the USC Keck Human Rights Collaborative and assistant program director of the LAC+USC Emergency Medicine Residency Program. He has provided dozens of asylum seekers with forensic medical affidavits, which can corroborate testimonies of persecution in their countries of origin and support their applications for protection in the United States. Dr. Schneberk told committee members how the Trump administration’s implementation of the MPP has inflicted significant harm on these already vulnerable populations.

“I have seen how the MPP puts the mental and physical health of asylum seekers at grave risk, allowing harm to be inflicted upon a population that has already experienced severe levels of trauma. Many of the people we see have escaped extreme violence in their countries of origin. Instead of finding the safety they so desperately seek, they are forced back into under-resourced border towns like Tijuana, where they are exposed to further violence and exploitation. Each day that asylum seekers are forced to wait in these precarious settings compounds the massive trauma that forced them to flee their homes to seek safe haven within our borders. This situation can quite literally be a threat to their lives.”

The introduction of the MPP has placed increasing pressure on asylum seekers at the U.S. border, Dr. Schneberk added.  

“My work has changed dramatically this past year, ever since the Trump administration rolled out the Migrant Protection Protocols,” Dr. Schneberk said today. “With thousands of people now waiting in Mexico for a chance to seek asylum in the United States, my colleagues and I face an increasing demand to carry out these forensic evaluations on the other side of the border, and we have been doing so in Tijuana.”

 Dr. Schneberk shared several harrowing stories from the asylum seekers he has met and evaluated in recent years, illustrating the vast human tolls of MPP and other U.S. asylum policies.

“Since 2016, the Trump administration has undermined the integrity of the U.S. asylum system, introducing a series of restrictive policies that defy both international and U.S. law and egregiously obstruct the right to seek asylum,” said Dr. Schneberk.

Dr. Schneberk and Physicians for Human Rights called on Congress to “protect the right of individuals to seek asylum in accordance with federal and international laws,” by immediately abolishing and defunding MPP, among several other recommended reforms to the U.S. asylum system.

Full remarks are available here.

Physicians for Human Rights (PHR) is a New York-based advocacy organization that uses science and medicine to prevent mass atrocities and severe human rights violations. Learn more here.

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