ResourcesPress Release

PHR Welcomes Court Ruling Halting Inhumane Policy Against Asylum Seekers

NEW YORK – Physicians for Human Rights (PHR) welcomes a preliminary injunction that halts the Trump administration’s Migrant Protection Protocols, known as the “Remain in Mexico” policy. This policy has forced asylum seekers to wait in Mexico while immigration courts process their cases, a practice that is clearly inhumane and inconsistent with U.S. legal obligations.

District Judge Richard Seeborg wrote in his ruling that asylum seekers presented uncontested evidence that they had fled their homes in Central America to escape extreme violence, including rape and death threats. He also stated that asylum seekers continued to experience physical and verbal threats in Mexico and faced the possibility of irreparable injury if made to wait there.

PHR has conducted extensive medical research in Tijuana, Mexico, the busiest border crossing point between Mexico and the United States, and the place where the MPP policy was first implemented. PHR documented dozens of cases of asylum seekers who had fled extreme violence in Central America and southern Mexico, as well as many who had suffered physical and psychological trauma in Tijuana due to violence perpetrated by gangs, corrupt police, or military officials targeting people at risk, such as LGBTQIA and political and rights activists, which are protected groups under U.S. asylum law.

PHR Senior Researcher Tamaryn Nelson said: “PHR’s research shows clearly that many migrants in Tijuana have strong claims for asylum that must be heard immediately. Yet asylum seekers waiting for their turn to cross to the United States are vulnerable to violence, theft, and extortion – sometimes by perpetrators who pursue them to the border – and the U.S.’s MPP policy puts them directly in harm’s way. This injunction rightly halts a cruel and inhumane policy by U.S. authorities.”

“Many asylum seekers showed predictable responses to unspeakable violence, carrying heavy anxiety and signs of PTSD. They cannot maintain any mental health if made to wait in Mexico, which could be years,” said Dr. Todd Schneberk, one of the doctors conducting PHR’s research.

Michael Payne, PHR advocacy officer, added, “While PHR welcomes this injunction, we will continue to monitor the administration’s immigration policies to ensure that they comply with international human rights standards, and that those seeking protection from violence and persecution continue to have their status protected under U.S. law and policy.”

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.