Conflicts & War

Humanitarian tragedy of Remain in Mexico program now before US Supreme Court

By Jorge Dastis

Washington, Apr 26 (EFE).- The humanitarian crisis brought by the Remain in Mexico program arrived on Tuesday at the doors of the US Supreme Court with a protest by organizations calling for an end to the “racist” policy that “puts an end to human rights” along the US-Mexico border.

That was how Lindsay Tozcylowski, executive director of the Immigrant Defenders Law Center (Immdef), described the program that the highest US court is now studying to determine whether to continue it or allow it to be shelved.

Tozcylowski spoke from the stage set up for the protest in front of the steps of the high court before the start of oral arguments in the case on eliminating the Migrant Protection Protocols, which obligate many undocumented foreigners requesting asylum to await the resolution of their cases in Mexico.

President Joe Biden promised during his election campaign to eliminate this program and moved to do so in June 2021, but a Texas judge ordered it reinstated. The Supreme Court must now decide if that judge was correct in that ruling or if the administration should be allowed to put an end to the policy, which was inaugurated under the previous Republican administration of Donald Trump.

“Si se puede!” (Yes we can) the demonstrators chanted in Spanish, most of them members of one or more of the 50 migrant defense organizations that had convened the protests. On a stage adorned with flowers and signs, Haitian singer Sherlee Skai put a Creole accent on the slogan, transforming it into “Wi nou kapab!”

Parading across the stage were more than a dozen spokespeople, social leaders and refugees who have been affected by the policy, sharing their testimonials, prayers and slogans, although at times some of them were hard to hear above the noise from nearby lawn and landscaping equipment.

One of the most heavily applauded stories was that of Ray Rodriguez, a Cuban migrant who had to wait 10 months near Matamoros, Mexico, while his asylum application was processed.

“During my time in the city I was a witness to much suffering. People are being kidnapped and suffering violence from the (drug) cartels and from the corrupt (Mexican) police,” he said.

Rodriguez told EFE that after his asylum request was approved he was able to settle in the US and find work, but the process of waiting in Mexico filled him with considerable uncertainty.

“You end up living for the moment and you don’t think about the future because you have to make sure that you stay alive right now,” he said.

He also blamed the Biden administration for not doing more to eliminate the protocol, given that – in his opinion – the government has had more than enough time to do so.

Several of the spokespeople shared bitter stories of migrants trapped in Mexico while their requests were processed, stories like that of Lisbet, who was raped repeatedly by a Mexican police officer, or Yeti, who slept next to a corpse for three days in a detention center in Ciudad Juarez.

“There are numerous documented cases of women who have experienced trauma, sexual abuse and more,” the director of the Women’s Refugee Commission’s program for rights and justice for migrants, Katharina Obser, told EFE.

Obser fears that if the Remain in Mexico program stays on the books the number of cases of abuse and trauma will only grow.

Linda Corchado, the interim executive director of the Las Americas organization, which focuses on providing assistance to migrants who cross into the US at El Paso, said she is not surprised that Mexico cannot provide safe conditions for refugees who are seeking to get into the US.

“We have customers who have been tortured, raped, kidnapped, in a society which in many ways has already failed. We represent asylum seekers, and so we understand the institutional failings that plague Mexico,” she told EFE.

Corchado believes that this type of harsh policy against immigration does not prevent occurrences like those seen a few months ago when thousands of Haitian migrants were forced to live under a Texas bridge while their asylum requests were being processed.

“Dissuasion doesn’t work. If they stay in Mexico they will suffer violent crimes and many, in desperation, will try to cross into the United States in unconventional ways,” she said.

Along the same lines, Obser warned the Trump’s immigration policies – Remain in Mexico and Title 42, which will be revoked at the end of May despite having been used by the Biden administration to resolve the crisis of the Haitian migrants – only serve to create “harm, chaos” and migrant traffic jams on the border.

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