PHR Condemns Court Ruling Allowing U.S. Government to Send Asylum Seekers to Mexico

U.S. Court of Appeals overturned a lower court’s injunction on the Migration Protection Protocols policy

NEW YORK – Physicians for Human Rights (PHR) condemns a ruling by the United States Ninth Circuit Court of Appeals that allows continued implementation of the Trump administration’s Migration Protection Protocols (MPP), known as the “Remain in Mexico,” policy, while judgment on the legality of the policy itself is still pending. The ruling, which overturns an earlier injunction on the MPP, allows the administration to force asylum seekers to remain in Mexico as they await court proceedings in the United States. This policy directly endangers asylum seekers and violates the United States’ commitments under both domestic and international law.

The MPP policy was first implemented in February 2019 in Tijuana, Mexico while PHR was on the ground with a team of its Asylum Network doctors documenting dozens of cases of asylum seekers who fled extreme violence in their home countries and then faced additional physical and psychological trauma in Tijuana. “One young Central American woman who was raped in retaliation for her husband refusing to join a gang clearly told us, ‘I do not feel safe Tijuana. Gang members are everywhere; they can find us here and disappear us,’” said Tamaryn Nelson, senior researcher at PHR.

“PHR’s medical evidence shows that many migrants seeking asylum suffer from anxiety and show signs of post-traumatic stress disorder from dealing with the extreme violence and risks to their safety that forced them to leave their homes. For many of these asylum seekers who are already in a very vulnerable situation, U.S. policies that force them to await in Mexico further compound their stress and trauma. These are an unacceptable threat to their health and safety.”

When the injunction to the MPP policy was first filed by U.S. District Judge Richard Seeborg, he cited that the policy lacked sufficient protections ensuring that migrants seeking asylum would be returned to safe places in Mexico. He also stated that asylum seekers continued to experience threats to their safety in Mexico and were faced with the possibility of injury if made to wait there.

“The overturning of this injunction puts migrants with strong claims to asylum in danger and denies them their fundamental rights,” added Nelson. “The MPP policy sets a dangerous precedent in terms of how the U.S. handles its obligation to protect people lawfully seeking protection from persecution and violence. This administration must stop violating international human rights standards – not to mention flouting the law – by enacting policies like the MPP.”

Additional resources:
Press Release: “As Nielsen Visits Border, ‘Migrant Protection Protocols’ Increase Vulnerability of Migrants,” January 29, 2019.
Press Release: “PHR Welcomes Court Ruling Halting Inhumane Policy Against Asylum Seekers,” April 10, 2019.
Video: “PHR is in Tijuana assessing the challenges of vulnerable migrants,” December 3, 2018.
Blog: “I Saw the Emergency at the U.S. Border. It Doesn’t Require a Wall,” February 15, 2019.
Blog: “Face to Face with the Trauma of Asylum Seekers,” April 8, 2019.
• PHR’s policy brief, “Zero Protection,” analyzes records of harmful practices by U.S. Customs and Border Protection personnel. Turning away asylum seekers at ports of entry, dumping water left for migrants crossing the desert, and patrolling hospitals in search of undocumented individuals are some examples of how U.S. agents regularly violate migrants’ right to seek asylum and even endanger their lives.

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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