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LAWGEF Welcomes Guidelines for the Protection of Migrant Rights in U.S.-Mexico Repatriation Agreements

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Today, February 24, 2016, LAWGEF welcomed the inclusion of guidelines to protect the rights of vulnerable migrants and to ensure the return of migrant belongings in new repatriation agreements between the U.S. Department of Homeland Security (DHS) and the Mexican Government.

The nine repatriation agreements cover all of the locations along the U.S.-Mexico border from San Diego, California to Brownsville, Texas and are the product of a year-long process between United States and Mexican officials. LAWGEF welcomes the public release of the nine repatriation agreements on the DHS website as an effort to demonstrate transparency and accountability by all of the agencies involved, including U.S. Customs and Border Protection (CBP).

The agreements include language stipulating the hours during which all general repatriations of Mexican citizens are required to occur and specify special times for unaccompanied migrant children and migrants with special needs. While the hours vary slightly depending on the location of the border, all of them state that repatriations will not occur after 10pm and before 5am, with none occurring before 7am for minors. The agreements also outline that all steps should be taken to ensure that property, valuables, and money retained, are available for return to migrants at the time of release from DHS custody. Previously, civil society organizations had documented migrants being returned from the United States to Mexico during nighttime hours and frequently without belongings, such as their identification documents, money and medication. Guidelines for ensuring the safety, consular notification, appropriate trafficking, and asylum screening of the individuals repatriated, especially children, as well as training for the implementing agencies and procedures for reporting incidents were also included in the agreements.

“These new repatriation agreements are long-awaited policies for the protection of migrant rights along the U.S.-Mexico border. We applaud the inclusion of guidelines to ensure the safety of vulnerable migrants in their return to Mexico and urge the implementing agencies to do everything they can to adhere to them immediately,” states Daniella Burgi-Palomino, Senior Associate for LAWGEF’s Mexico, Migrant Rights, and Border Issues program.

LAWGEF has consistently been calling for the implementation of policies to improve the protection migrant rights along the border and demanding greater accountability and transparency of CBP. In past months, LAWGEF has called for greater oversight in the new agency wide National Standards on Transport, Escort, Detention, and Search for detained migrants and demanded that CBP make progress in requiring body-worn cameras for its agents. Moving forward on the implementation of all of these policies, as well as on the investigation and prosecution of use of force incidents by CBP agents, will begin to demonstrate the agency’s commitment to change its abusive policies against migrant and willingness to be more transparent and accountable in all of its actions.