Mexican bishops criticize the government for agreeing to revive the US migrant protocols
Reynosa, Mexico – Mexico’s bishops expressed disappointment at their government’s willingness to agree to a plan called Remain in Mexico, in which asylum seekers in the US wait in dangerous border towns while their cases go to US courts.
In a declaration on December 6th, the bishops also called on the federal government to “fulfill its commitments to promote and protect basic human rights in the context of migration without delay”.
“We are disappointed to hear that the Mexican government has decided to restart the MPP (Migrant Protection Protocols), better known as ‘Stay in Mexico’, because it violates several international principles on refugee and asylum issues, such as due process and non-refoulement and does not allow the proper exercise of the fundamental rights of those applying for refugee status, “reads the declaration signed by seven bishops, including Archbishop Rogelio Cabrera López of Monterrey, the conference president.
Non-refoulement is a principle of international law that prohibits countries from deporting refugees to a country where their fundamental rights could be violated
“We sincerely wish that the people who are in Mexican territory can see the light of hope in this valley of indifference, pain and discrimination by the authorities,” the statement said.
“The Catholic Church of Mexico, by the [migrant ministry] expresses its willingness to enter into a dialogue with the federal government in order to channel effective proposals in favor of migrants, asylum seekers and deported Mexicans who are internally displaced. “
The US and Mexican governments have announced an agreement to revive the Remain in Mexico program. The first participants in the program were due to return to Mexico on December 6th.
The U.S. Department of Homeland Security has pledged to improve the program by providing asylum seekers access to legal counsel, resolving asylum applications within six months, and sending resources to Mexico to care for program participants.
The Mexican government agreed to the US request to resume the program, saying the US government had addressed concerns such as protecting vulnerable groups and offering medical examinations and vaccinations to migrants.
US President Joe Biden has campaigned for the abolition of the Remain in Mexico program launched by his predecessor, President Donald Trump. In August, however, a US federal court ordered the program to be restarted.
Lawyers working with migrants say the Remain in Mexico program is coming because the United States already has restricted access to the asylum process.
Many potential asylum seekers are being deported to Mexico for health reasons under Title 42, which was imposed by Trump during the pandemic and held under Biden.
Proponents say people returned to dangerous Mexican border towns under Title 42 and Remaining in Mexico would routinely end up in the hands of kidnappers.
Doctors Without Borders medical charity found that 80% of Remain Mexico participants who were treated as patients in the drug cartel stronghold of Nuevo Laredo, across from Laredo, Texas, experienced violence while in Mexico.
In the town of Matamoros, across from Brownsville, Texas, Remain, Mexico participants formed a camp on the Rio Grande. The camp was polluted by snakes, flooded and controlled by organized crime. The camp residents were so desperate that some paid smugglers took their children across the river in hopes that US authorities would release the minors into the care of relatives already living in the US.
“You should find another way of receiving migrants so that they are not brought back to Mexico and these camps are not rebuilt,” said Fr. Francisco Gallardo, Director of the Migrants Ministries for the Diocese of Matamoros. He called the camps “completely inhuman”.
“It’s really bad right now, and it would get worse if they started dropping people off and saying, ‘Wait in Mexico,'” said Scalabrinian P. Pat Murphy, who runs a migrant shelter in Tijuana, said in an interview after the court ordered the restoration of the country’s whereabouts in Mexico.
“The problem is, wait for what? There is still no asylum procedure. There is only asylum for a few vulnerable people … people with some illness or children,” he said. “There is no consistency.”