Washington, D.C.—On May 22, 10 leading U.S. and Mexican human rights organizations expressed concern over a possible U.S.-Mexico agreement that would require Central American migrants to request asylum in Mexico if they passed through that country en-route to the United States. The agreement would designate Mexico as a “safe third country” capable of protecting asylum-seekers, and would deny them access to protection in the United States. In a letter addressed to U.S. and Mexican officials, the human rights groups said that such an agreement “would be devastating for those fleeing violence in their own countries, as Mexico has repeatedly failed to protect the most vulnerable.”
“Mexico is not safe for many migrants, and its asylum system lacks capacity to process more than a tiny fraction of cases of individuals seeking, and in need of, international protection,” the letter said.
The letter goes on to cite the alarming rates at which migrants, particularly women and children, are frequently the victims of violent crimes in Mexico, which for the most part go unsolved.
“A recent survey of 429 Central American migrants in Mexico found that 31.4 percent of women and 17.2 percent of men had been sexually abused in transit in Mexico,” the letter said. “Not only women and girls are targeted; in fact many migrants in transit in Mexico are the victims of crimes, including kidnappings, homicides, sexual assault, robbery, and extortion that are perpetrated by organized criminal groups, corrupt migration authorities, and the police who are charged with protecting them. An alarming 68.3 percent of the same group of Central American migrants surveyed reported being victims of any type of violence while in Mexico.”
In a Senate Appropriations Committee hearing this month, Secretary of Homeland Security Kirstjen Nielsen testified that establishing this kind of agreement with Mexico was a priority, in order to fulfill the administration’s goal of reducing immigration at the southern border. On May 17 and 18, the governments of Mexico and the United States met to further discuss the possibility of establishing this policy.
The letter concludes: “We strongly urge the United States and Mexico to abandon negotiations on such an agreement and instead to uphold their responsibility under international and national law to offer access to international protection to all those seeking it, ensuring due process and respect for family unity.”