August 11, 2021 (Oakland, USA and Mexico City, Mexico). Asylum Access and Asylum Access Mexico condemn the ongoing application of Title 42, as well as the summary expulsion of families and individuals on flights from the United States and northern Mexico to remote parts of southern Mexico, from where they have been forced into Guatemala.
Tens of thousands of Central Americans have fled their countries this year because their lives are in danger. Since March of 2019, the US government has denied almost all of them the right to seek protection in the US, relying upon an obscure public health rule from the 1940s known as Title 42. Over the past week, the Biden administration, in partnership with Mexico, exacerbated the devastating effects of this order by flying hundreds of asylum seekers and migrants to Tabasco and Chiapas in southern Mexico, and then forcing them to enter rural areas of Guatemala by foot. These expulsions occur without any effort to identify the protection needs of the individuals, limiting their international right to request asylum and placing them in a situation of extreme risk and vulnerability. Needless to say, placing hundreds of families in crowded planes and busses in the midst of a pandemic and expelling them to areas lacking basic health facilities does nothing to promote public health.
These actions of the governments of the United States and Mexico are illegal and represent a total abandonment of their obligations under the 1951 UN Refugee Convention, the US Refugee Act of 1980 and Mexico’s 2014 Law on Refugees, Complementary Protection and Political Asylum. In addition, they violate the fundamental principle of non-refoulement, which prohibits the expulsion of anyone to a territory where their lives could be in danger.
“We strongly condemn that the governments of both countries continue to systematically violate the rights of people in need of international protection under the pretext of the COVID-19 pandemic, putting them at risk and limiting their access to asylum,” said Alejandra Macías Delgadillo, director of Asylum Access México.
The administration of President Joe Biden declared that it is committed to restoring access to asylum in the United States. However, the reality is the administration continues to rely on the Trump administration’s failed notion that increasingly cruel immigration policies can deter the lawful practice of seeking asylum. The United States must eliminate Title 42 and immediately facilitate access to asylum.
We urge the Mexican government to abide by its international commitments and laws, and stop violating the rights of people in need of international protection. It is imperative that the government of Andrés Manuel López Obrador cease cooperating in US initiatives to externalize its borders, facilitate access to lawyers prior to returning anyone to southern Mexico or Guatemala, and guarantee a meaningful right to seek asylum for anyone who requests it.
Currently, Asylum Access Mexico is monitoring the situation and gathering further information. We will continue to work in partnership with civil society organizations and the UN to defend those affected by these cruel practices.