Today, the U.S. Supreme Court issued a stay order to allow the Trump administration to continue enforcing the Migrant Protection Protocols (MPP), also known as the “Remain in Mexico” policy. This move blocked an injunction by a lower court earlier this month that had ordered MPP suspended along parts of the border. Since its inception in January 2019, more than 66,000 asylum seekers have been forced to wait in Mexico for their United States asylum claims to be processed.
Physicians for Human Rights (PHR) and other organizations have documented the dangerous conditions and grave risks that asylum seekers face in Mexican border cities like Matamoros and Tijuana. PHR clinicians have conducted medical and psychological evaluations of asylum seekers who have been kidnapped in Mexico, or exposed to other forms of violence, extortion, and serious threats to their physical and mental health.
In November 2019, Todd Schneberk, MD, a PHR medical expert, spoke at the first-ever U.S. House of Representatives hearing dedicated to MPP, testifying that the policy “puts migrant women, children, and men directly in harm’s way… I regularly witness the dire impacts.” In response to Wednesday’s ruling, Dr. Schneberk issued the following statement:
“Asylum seekers forced to remain in Mexico have experienced terrible conditions since MPP began. Last weekend, I interviewed several asylum seekers in Tijuana, who all faced immense risks of physical and psychological harms while staying in Mexico as part of the MPP program,” said Dr. Schneberk.
“One of them had already been assaulted and robbed a month prior in Tijuana. I fear mostly for a mother I spoke to, who fled with her two sons, who are 10 and 16 years old. They had escaped terrible atrocities in Honduras, including rape by gangs who control their neighborhood and pretty much every facet of their lives. Now they hide in a shelter in Tijuana while they await their U.S. asylum proceedings, afraid to even walk to the grocery store because of the dangerous conditions in Mexico.”
PHR research has shown that many asylum seekers are fleeing extreme violence and have no recourse to obtain justice in their countries of origin. Their trauma has been compounded by U.S. immigration policies like MPP.
“The Trump administration is finding a way to ‘build the wall’ through deadly policies like “Remain in Mexico.” MPP is an affront to human rights, due process, and long-standing commitments to U.S. and international law. It must end immediately,” said Tamaryn Nelson, senior researcher at PHR.
“Asylum seekers – who are exercising their legal right to seek asylum in safety – are routinely exposed to severe violence and further trauma in places like Matamoros, Tijuana, and Juarez. We call on the Supreme Court to uphold the decision of the United States Court of Appeals for the Ninth Circuit, which found that this policy violates both domestic and international laws, and caused ‘extreme and irreversible harm.’”
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.