In a diplomatic plea to Mexican President Andrés Manuel López Obrador and Foreign Secretary Alicia Bárcena, Human Rights Watch has vehemently urged Mexico to reject any potential new agreement with the United States that could result in an escalation of the summary expulsion of asylum seekers to Mexico. The urgent letter comes in response to alarming immigration measures currently under consideration by US President Joe Biden and Congress. If enacted, these measures would not only contravene international human rights standards but also expose thousands of migrants and asylum seekers to serious harm.
At the center of the dispute are proposals that, if approved, would introduce harsh immigration restrictions as part of negotiations over the 2024 United States federal budget. These measures include the creation of a rule that would empower US immigration officials to summarily expel asylum seekers without affording them the opportunity to present their claims. This echoes the controversial and now-defunct Title 42 border expulsion policy, which concluded in May 2023. Other measures under consideration involve restrictions on the humanitarian parole program and the potential permanence of a Trump-era “transit ban” rule. Crucially, any new policy pertaining to the expulsion of migrants and asylum seekers to Mexico would necessitate the explicit consent of the Mexican government.
Human Rights Watch underscores the potential complicity of Mexico in facilitating such expulsions, emphasizing the severe risks faced by individuals expelled to Mexico under previous agreements. Non-Mexican migrants and asylum seekers, subjected to the “Remain in Mexico” program and the expired Title 42 policy, have consistently fallen victim to criminal elements and corrupt officials, enduring egregious abuses including kidnapping, extortion, robbery, sexual assault, and even murder. Shockingly, crimes against migrants in Mexico often go unreported, uninvestigated, and unpunished, painting a grim picture of the consequences of such policies.
The organization implores President López Obrador to take a principled stand for the rights of vulnerable migrants and asylum seekers by firmly refusing to engage in yet another agreement that threatens to undermine the integrity of the US asylum system. This call comes against the backdrop of ongoing negotiations where Congressional lawmakers are linking their support for authorizing over US$100 billion in aid funding for Ukraine and Israel to the approval of stringent immigration measures.
It is essential to recognize the broader implications of such measures, as they extend beyond domestic policy considerations. Human Rights Watch points out that any new policy regarding the expulsion of migrants and asylum seekers to Mexico requires the active participation of the Mexican government. This places a weighty responsibility on President López Obrador to ensure that Mexico does not become complicit in policies that violate basic human rights and endanger the lives of vulnerable individuals.
President López Obrador’s administration has a track record of allowing the US to expel non-Mexican migrants under various agreements, including the “Remain in Mexico” program and the now-expired Title 42 policy. Human Rights Watch emphasizes the need for the Mexican president to prioritize the security of Mexicans and uphold the fundamental rights of vulnerable migrants. The organization acknowledges the challenges faced by Mexico in dealing with migration but emphasizes that any approach should adhere to international law and human rights standards.
Highlighting the rights to seek asylum and protection from refoulement as recognized in both US and Mexican law, as well as international conventions such as the Refugee Convention, the Convention against Torture, and the International Covenant on Civil and Political Rights (ICCPR), Human Rights Watch underscores the unlawfulness and inherent dangers associated with expelling asylum seekers without affording them the opportunity to present their claims.
In conclusion, Human Rights Watch urges President López Obrador to prioritize the security and rights of both Mexicans and vulnerable migrants, making it abundantly clear that Mexico will not participate in facilitating further expulsions that violate international law and human rights standards. The organization emphasizes the potential dire consequences of such measures, which not only undermine the fabric of asylum systems but also empower criminal groups in Mexico that prey on and exploit vulnerable migrants. As the negotiations unfold, the international community watches closely to see how Mexico will assert its commitment to human rights and justice in the face of potentially detrimental policies.