Washington, D.C.—In a letter sponsored by Reps. Alan Lowenthal (D-California), Albio Sires (D-New Jersey), Raúl Grijalva (D-Arizona), and Joaquin Castro (D-Texas) and co-signed by 15 representatives, Members of Congress encouraged Secretary of State Antony Blinken to emphasize protection of migrants, citizen security, the rule of law, and human rights as priorities in the U.S.-Mexico bilateral agenda. As the Biden administration looks to change the course set by the Trump administration in U.S.-Mexico relations—with Biden recently meeting virtually with President Andrés Manuel López Obrador—the letter lays out areas of cooperation fundamental to building a bilateral relationship centered on human rights.
The letter recognizes the first phase of the wind-down of the Trump administration’s “Remain in Mexico” policy, but notes that, because many asylum seekers are still not being allowed to enter the United States, there is a need for “coordination with the Mexican government and international organizations and consultation with civil society organizations to ensure that during any continued wait in Mexico, asylum seekers have access to water, food, healthcare, shelter, and protection from crime.”
The Members of Congress also acknowledge the importance of improving access to asylum in Mexico, stating that “asylum seekers continue to face inadequate screening for protection concerns by migration enforcement officials, poor conditions in detention centers, and long processing times.” Recognizing the critical role of Mexico’s refugee agency, COMAR (Comisión Mexicana de Ayuda a Refugiados), the lawmakers encourage coordination aimed at “increasing COMAR’s presence throughout the country, supporting alternatives to detention for asylum seekers, and further improving COMAR’s capacity.”
In light of high levels of violence and human rights violations in Mexico, the letter calls for the State Department to “work with the Mexican government to address the near-total levels of impunity that enable criminal groups and state agents to perpetrate serious crimes and human rights abuses. We believe that civilian institution-building and strengthening the rule of law and human rights are the building blocks of a sustainable solution to violence.” In recognition of the ongoing risks faced by human rights defenders and journalists in Mexico, the letter encourages Secretary Blinken to “meet with human rights defenders and journalists to hear their concerns and learn about their important work.”
“The Biden administration should heed these calls by Members of Congress to place human rights front and center in U.S.-Mexico relations,” said Stephanie Brewer, WOLA’s Director for Mexico and Migrant Rights. “That means recognizing the failure of a militarized, ‘drug war’ security approach, and supporting efforts to tackle the corruption and impunity that perpetuate human rights violations and endemic violence. Members of Congress are seeing that across Mexico, families and victims of abuses have taken the lead on seeking justice, and that they need support and protection.”
“Protection of migrants is a critical issue at this moment, as migrant families and individuals face extreme violence and asylum seekers struggle just to make their claims,” added Brewer. “Ensuring protection for migrants on both sides of the border is a human rights obligation and good policy for both countries.”
Read the letter in its entirety here.
See the congressional press release here.