1 in 4 asylum-seekers forced to ‘Wait in Mexico’ encounter violence, study shows

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In this Tuesday, Nov. 5, 2019, photo, Lizbeth poses for a portrait in a relative’s home in Tijuana, Mexico. Lizbeth, a Salvadoran woman seeking asylum in the United States, never thought she would be returned to Mexico to wait for the outcome of her case, after suffering multiple assaults, and being kidnapped into prostitution on her journey through Mexico. Critics of the Trump administration’s “Migrant Protection Protocols” policy, say it denies asylum seekers fair and humane treatment, largely by forcing them to wait in a country plagued by large pockets of drug-fueled violence, demonstrated this week by the slaughter near the U.S. border of several children and women. (AP Photo/Gregory Bull)

McALLEN, Texas (Border Report) — Many migrants who are returned to Mexico to await U.S. immigration court hearings face violence and the propensity of being homeless, according to a study by the U.S. Immigration Policy Center.

The study, “Seeking Asylum: Part 2,” found one in four migrants have been threatened with physical violence once returned to Mexico to await their asylum hearings there. One out of five migrants who have children under age 18 has been threatened with physical violence, and a third faces homelessness, with that rate increasing the longer they wait, the study found.

The study was conducted from July through October and polled 607 asylum-seekers who were returned to Mexico as part of the Trump administration’s Migrant Protection Protocols program, commonly called “Remain in Mexico” or “Wait in Mexico.” The program was implemented this year and so far over 60,000 migrants have been sent to wait in Mexico during their asylum court process, Department of Homeland Security officials say.

All of the migrants who were polled had been returned from either California or Arizona and were sent to Mexicali or Tijuana, Mexico. The latest report, however, did not poll migrants who are returned to the most violent cities in northern Mexico: Nuevo Laredo and Matamoros, across from border respectively from Laredo and Brownsville, Texas, “where the threat of kidnapping, murder, and other violent crime is more acute,” wrote study author Tom Wong, an associate political science professor at University of California-San Diego.

A woman helps a little boy and girl who live at a refugee camp for migrants in Matamoros, Mexico, across from Brownsville, Texas. This is the largest refugee camp on the U.S. border and has about 2,000 migrants who have been returned to wait in Mexico during their asylum hearings. (Border Report File Photo/Sandra Sanchez)

The U.S. Immigration Policy Center is part of the University of California- San Diego, and it boasts that this study to date is the largest on MPP violence.

This is “the most comprehensive analysis to date of the impact of the Remain in Mexico policy. No person was interviewed unless we could verify their MPP status. Verification of the MPP status of our respondents was done by examining their Department of Homeland Security (DHS) paperwork, focusing on their Notice to Appear (NTA) forms,” Wong wrote.

The report follows a previous study by Wong also on migrants, “Seeking Asylum: Part 1,” in which over 7,000 migrants were studied on their origin, time spent in detention and experiences. Read a Border Report story on the previous study.

Each day waiting increases violence chances

This new report found that “the length of time spent waiting in Mexico is statistically significantly related to being threatened with physical violence.”

The report cited that at 10 days spent waiting in Mexico, the predicted
probability of being threatened with physical violence is 18.7%; at 88.6 days spent waiting in Mexico — which is the average length of time in between being processed by U.S. immigration officials and most migrants’ court dates — the predicted probability of being threatened with physical violence is 32%.

Other study findings include:

  • Nearly 9 out of every 10 migrants, or 85 percent, who were asked by U.S. immigration officials about being fearful of being returned to Mexico responded by expressing fear.
  • 40% were given a secondary interview by an asylum officer; 59.6% were not.
  • Six out of every 10 were placed into the Remain in Mexico policy without any further investigation into the fears that they expressed about being returned to Mexico.
A migrant watches his clothes dry at the tent encampment in Matamoros, Mexico, in October. About 2,000 asylum-seekers live at the camp, across the Gateway International Bridge from Brownsville, Texas. (Border Report File Photo/Sandra Sanchez).

The Los Angeles Times reported Sunday that the Migrant Protection Protocols program has an asylum grant rate of .01 percent; that is significantly lower than the 20 percent who were granted asylum outside of the Remain in Mexico process, the story states, citing data from the Executive Office for Immigration Review.

But in visits to the Southwest last month, Chad Wolf, acting secretary of the Department of Homeland Security, called the MPP program a resounding success.

Department of Homeland Security Acting Secretary Chad Wolf speaks to reporters on Nov. 21, 2019, at the site where a new border wall is being built south of Donna, Texas. (Border Report File Photo/Sandra Sanchez).

“The use and expansion of Migrant Protection Protocols, also known as MPP, has changed the dynamic at the border. MPP was established earlier this year and it is grounded in law enacted in a bi-partisan basis. The Department of Homeland Security is using this program to end catch-and-release and to mitigate the humanitarian crisis at the border. The program has also helped the U.S. provide robust and timely due process for more than 60,000 individuals seeking immigration hearings, and it’s alleviating the overcrowding at U.S. Customs and Border Protection and ICE facilities,” Wolf said.

Visit the BorderReport.com homepage for the latest exclusive stories and breaking news about issues along the United States-Mexico border.

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