ResourcesPress Release

Supreme Court Decision a Dire Threat to Asylum Seekers’ Safety: PHR

Following the U.S. Supreme Court’s decision to allow the Trump administration to block those who seek asylum at the southern border without first applying for asylum in another country they transited, Physicians for Human Rights (PHR) denounced the decision as inhumane and impractical.

The following statement is attributable to PHR’s Senior Researcher, Tamaryn Nelson:

“This ‘third country’ asylum rule practically bans asylum at the U.S.-Mexico border for all nationalities except Mexicans. Hondurans and Salvadorans – many of whom have fled unthinkable violence and persecution – will have to seek and be denied asylum in Guatemala or Mexico before they can apply in the United States. Guatemalans would have to apply and be denied in Mexico before they would be eligible for asylum in the United States. The same would apply to asylum seekers of other nationalities from around the world who traveled through these countries to reach the U.S-Mexico border. 

“PHR’s research shows how asylum seekers who transit through or remain stuck in Mexico or Guatemala continue to face violence or threats in those countries. These governments simply cannot protect asylum seekers nor adequately process their claims.

“Seeking asylum is a human right. For decades, the United States has provided due process for those applying for asylum who have escaped torture, killings, and persecution, regardless of how they arrived at the country. This Supreme Court decision allows the Trump administration to abandon this life-saving practice while the constitutionality of the new policy is still pending. It seriously undermines the United States’ standing as a safe haven.

“This decision condemns the children and families who seek asylum to greater violence, insecurity, and uncertainty.”

Additional Background on PHR’s Asylum Work:

As the humanitarian crisis at the U.S. southern border has become increasingly severe, PHR has sent teams of medical and mental health clinicians to interview children, families, and other asylum seekers as part of its Asylum Network’s effort to evaluate the medical and psychological conditions of asylum seekers. PHR’s findings make clear that it is time for the U.S. administration to end all policies that lead to the detention of children and separation of families.

In June, PHR released two groundbreaking reports on: 1) the medical and mental health impacts of exposure to trauma in children seeking asylum; and 2) how U.S. immigration enforcement in health facilities is harming patients across the United States. Both reports speak to the severity of the health consequences and the urgent need for policy solutions and include detailed recommendations for the U.S. government and other parties.

PHR partnered with the Weill Cornell Center for Human Rights to produce its report “There is No One Here to Protect You: Trauma Among Children Fleeing Violence in Central America,” which presents the first case series of child and adolescent asylum seekers arriving in the United States. The report documents the physical and psychological harm caused by gang and domestic violence against children in their home countries, as well as compounding trauma experienced by children in transit to the United States and in U.S. immigration detention.

PHR’s policy brief “Not in My Exam Room” documents discriminatory practices by U.S. immigration enforcement that have led to egregious health care violations, including impeding patient care and neglect of medical advice. The brief details harsh immigration enforcement actions within the militarized border zone which are violating patient rights and creating widening racial and ethnic health disparities as well as putting the health care of patients and the ethical obligations of medical professionals at risk.

PHR has repeatedly called on the U.S. administration to guarantee the basic health of individuals in its custody and to provide adequate medical treatment of children affected by trauma in regard to both physical and mental health.

PHR Resources on Asylum and the U.S. Border

  • Press Release: “Trump’s New Indefinite Family Detention Rule is Dangerous, Inhumane, and Unlawful,” August 23, 2019
  • Mobilization/Photos: “Doctor’s Orders: Close the Camps” – a protest by medical professionals in front of the White House after a PHR-organized letter to the Trump administration signed by almost 25,000 people was delivered to the Department of Homeland Security, July 16, 2019
  • Report: “There is No One Here to Protect You,” June 10, 2019
    • Press Release: “Asylum-Seeking Children from Northern Triangle Suffer Multi-Dimensional, Recurrent, Sustained Trauma,” June 10, 2019
  • Policy Brief: “Not in My Exam Room,” June 10, 2019
    • Press Release: “U.S. Immigration Enforcement Practices Violate Patient Rights and Medical Ethics,” June 10, 2019
    • Fact Sheet: “Establishing Sanctuary Hospitals: Protecting the Right to Access Health Care,” June 10, 2019

Fact Sheet: “Health Risks of Customs and Border Protection Detention,” July 2019

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.

Get Updates from PHR