Nearly 500 acts of violence have been perpetrated against asylum-seekers who were denied entry into the U.S. via the southern border since Joe Biden was elected president, according to a joint report from Human Rights First, Haitian Bridge Alliance, and Al Otro Lado.
The report titled, “Failure to Protect: Biden Administration Continues Illegal Trump Policy to Block and Expel Asylum Seekers to Danger” found at least 492 cases of violent acts targeting asylum-seekers who had been blocked from requesting asylum protection at the U.S.-Mexico border or were expelled. The violent attacks include kidnapping, rape, and assault.
The numbers are based on “more than 110 in-person interviews and an electronic survey of more than 1,200 asylum-seekers in the Mexican state of Baja California,” according to the Intercept.
The report found that “family separation is still occurring, and the illegal expulsions policy continues to endanger unaccompanied children,” and noted that some children are being expelled from the U.S. “without the proper screening for trafficking risk.”
“CBP continues to separate children from their adult relatives who are expelled to Mexico — increasing the number of children held alone in influx facilities and shelters,” Human Rights First stated.
CBP stated there were 18,890 unaccompanied children encountered by U.S. border authorities in March — a 100% increase over February. There were also 53,000 family unit aliens encountered at the southern border in March, and over 172,000 people total attempted to enter the United States.
Human Rights First interviewed over 150 asylum-seekers in March and April, none of which were “referred to apply for asylum or given a protection screening by U.S. immigration officers before being expelled to Mexico.”
“The Biden administration has blocked and expelled asylum-seeking families and adults from Burkina Faso, Cameroon, Cuba, El Salvador, Ethiopia, Ghana, Guatemala, Haiti, Honduras, Jamaica, Mexico, Nicaragua, Nigeria, Russia, Somalia, Venezuela, and Yemen. African, Caribbean, and other Black asylum seekers and migrants have been left particularly vulnerable by this policy, suffering anti-Black violence and discrimination while stranded at the border for months or even years,” Human Rights First reported. “A survey by Al Otro Lado in Baja California reveals that 61% of Haitian asylum seekers blocked from U.S. asylum protections were victims of crime while in Mexico.”
“Since February 2021, the U.S. government has sent 27 airplanes with over 1,400 Haitian adults and children, including asylum seekers, directly back to Haiti despite escalating political instability and violence,” Human Rights First reported.
As of February, there were approximately 16,250 asylum-seekers on waitlists in nine Mexican border cities, according to the University of Texas’ Strauss Center. The U.S. Customs and Border Protection practices “metering,” which turns away “thousands of people who come to ports of entry seeking protection,” according to the American Immigration Council. “Under metering, CBP officers assert a lack of capacity to refuse to inspect and process asylum seekers, requiring them to wait for weeks or months in Mexico just for the opportunity to start the asylum process.”
The report puts a spotlight on a Guatemalan family with a 6-year-old child who were abducted at a Mexican bus station in February shortly after Border Patrol expelled them out of the United States. The family were held for ransom. The report also cited a Washington Post article about a 10-year-old boy and his mother from Nicaragua being abducted hours after being expelled to Mexico in March.
One asylum-seeker informed Human Rights First that “Border Patrol agents told her that ‘the new president isn’t taking anyone’ and that she should present herself ‘legally’ even though ports of entry were, and remain, closed to asylum seekers in violation of U.S. law, which guarantees access to asylum to individuals at the border, including at ports of entry.”
To alleviate the current border crisis, Human Rights First calls for the Biden administration to put an end to Title 42, a Centers for Disease Control and Prevention public health order that is used to prohibit asylum-seekers into the United States when the CDC director believes that “there is serious danger of the introduction of [a communicable] disease into the United States.”
On March 20, 2020, the Department of Health and Human Services implemented section 265 of U.S. Code Title 42, which gave Border Patrol powers to expel “individuals who arrive at the U.S.-Mexico border, without giving them the opportunity to seek asylum.” The Biden administration amended Title 42 to allow entry for unaccompanied migrant minors.
“Despite his frequent pledges to reverse President [Donald] Trump’s cruelty at the border, President Biden is continuing a policy that is wreaking havoc: it endangers children, drives family separations, and illegally returns asylum seekers to danger, including Black and LGBTQ refugees forced to endure bias-motivated violence in Mexico,” Human Rights First said.