Author: Lily Folkerts
Washington, D.C.—The Latin America Working Group (LAWG) strongly condemns the President’s latest proclamation issued last Friday, November 10th that prohibits individuals from entering between ports of entry along the U.S.-Mexico border from seeking asylum.
LAWG denounces this criminalization of individuals, families, and children seeking protection at the U.S.-Mexico border as one more effort by the White House to restrict access to asylum, harm arriving families, and deport them back to danger. Many of the individuals currently arriving at our southern border, including individuals on the migrant caravan, are families and children who are fleeing violence and lack of protection, environmental disasters, repression by their governments, and poverty exacerbated by extortion and impunity in the Northern Triangle countries of Central America.
While the administration claims that individuals who enter at a port of entry will have access to seek asylum, NGOs have long documented the illegal turn-backs of asylum-seekers by Border Patrol agents. This proclamation is in addition to current efforts by the administration to send up to 15,000 troops to the U.S. border, militarizing the border without justification. Though the latest monthly border crossings have increased from previous months, there is no border crisis and border crossings remain at historic lows. Such border militarization efforts will not make us safer.
This proclamation is a violation of U.S. and international law which offers individuals the right to seek asylum regardless of their point of entry into the country and departs from the long history the United States has of welcoming those fleeing persecution. It will force migrants to be returned to danger or to be exposed to human rights violations and dangers along Mexico’s northern border.
LAWG also denounces any efforts by the United States to pressure the Mexican government to deter migrants from seeking protection or to force migrants to seek asylum in Mexico first. All individuals have the right to seek protection in the country where they feel safe, and Mexico is not a safe country for many migrants. They are exposed to numerous human rights violations including kidnapping, torture, disappearances, extortion, and sexual and gender-based violence.
LAWG urges this proclamation to be rescinded immediately. Individuals should not be denied their right to asylum or be detained indefinitely. We urge humane solutions for the families, men, women, and children seeking protection at our borders. The United States should uphold individuals’ rights to seek asylum and maintain due process. Cost-effective, community-based alternatives to detention that have already proven successful should be implemented immediately. The roots of this migration should be addressed with well-targeted, humanitarian programs for poverty reduction and violence prevention, combined with a principled stance against human rights violations and corruption in Honduras, Guatemala, and other countries from which people are fleeing.