New US-Mexico deal forces asylum seekers to ‘remain in Mexico’

New US-Mexico deal forces asylum seekers to ‘remain in Mexico’

By Luke Vargas   
Asylum seekers on the southern side of the U.S.-Mexico border near Tijuana, Mexico. November 23, 2018. Flickr photo: Daniel Arauz
Asylum seekers on the southern side of the U.S.-Mexico border near Tijuana, Mexico, on Nov. 23. (Daniel Arauz/Flickr)

A new asylum deal forcing migrants to 'remain in Mexico' during asylum screening could violate international refugee law.

UNITED NATIONS — The U.S. and Mexico agreed this week to a deal that would force Central American migrants who apply for asylum at America’s southern border to remain in Mexico as their applications are reviewed.

Mexico will reportedly receive more than $10 billion in U.S. aid in return.

Homeland Security Secretary Kirstjen Nielsen said the deal aimed to prevent those undeserving of asylum from being “able to disappear into the United States.” That may be a bonafide concern, but Justin Mazzola, a researcher at Amnesty International USA, says that doesn’t make the U.S.-Mexico deal legal:

“We are concerned about the discrimination aspect in terms of how people enter the United States to seek asylum. There seems to be a differentiation that this only applies to those that are crossing the border rather than those who cross through other ports of entries or travel through flights into the United States and seek asylum, and so basically punishing asylum seekers based upon how they’re entering the country, which actually violates the 1951 Refugee Convention.”

Even before the “Remain in Mexico” deal, thousands of Central American migrants were already taking shelter on the Mexican side of the border after hearing from U.S. customs officials of long asylum backlogs.

And as thousands more join them sleeping rough in cities from Tijuana to Reynosa, there are fears the U.S.-Mexico border could essentially become one long refugee camp, in which migrants face the very sorts of dangers they originally fled.

“We’ve documented for years some of the dangers that migrants and refugees and asylum-seekers face when they come up through Mexico, as well as specifically in the border towns. The U.S. government advises U.S. citizens not to travel to at least one Mexican state along the U.S.-Mexican border and discourages travels to at least three other states, yet we’re forcing people who are fleeing violence and persecution to stay there for months, if not years, while their immigration claims are processed.”

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