“Every time I see my daughters suffering here, I feel a lump in my throat. I cry in the nights. “
This is how a mother from Honduras describes her life in Piedras Negras, a Mexican town across the border with the US state of Texas, after being expelled from the US last month with her two- and seven-year-old daughters and other members of her family. Members of a gang she testified against in Honduras persecuted her to Mexico, fueling fears of violence.
An El Salvador family attacked in Mexico by a gang who threatened to kill them in their home country were also sent back to Tijuana from the US-Mexico border in February. “I don’t feel safe. I’m so afraid. It’s a dangerous place, ”the father said, adding that he recently witnessed a kidnapping while waiting for the bus.
A 14-year-old boy from Cuba, who was expelled from the United States to Mexico with his grandmother in February, is so scared and frightened that he is kidnapped by smugglers that he begins to bite off his fingernails. “Please tell the President to have mercy on us,” said his grandmother.
These are just a few of the stories featured in a new report released this week by three US-based legal groups that describes the experiences of migrants and asylum seekers stuck on or in one of the US-Mexico border Trump-era policies named Title 42 were expelled from the US.
“That Title 42 continues to be validated as a public health measure is deeply worrying,” said Nicole Ramos, director of the border rights project at Al Otro Lado, a legal and humanitarian aid group.
During a press conference Tuesday afternoon, Ramos said volunteers are receiving increasing reports that migrants and asylum seekers in Tijuana, Mexico have been kidnapped by organized crime groups and held as ransom.
“Our employees receive videos of asylum seekers with guns pointing upside down. Children held over the mouths of barking dogs – all are threatened if their families don’t pay … that they will be killed and the body parts scattered, never to be recovered or identified, “she said.
492 attacks since late January
Title 42, which was first called in March 2020 by ex-President Donald Trump due to the COVID-19 pandemic, enables US authorities to quickly move most migrants arriving at the US border under the guise of public health to exclude.
While President Joe Biden no longer uses Title 42 to deport unaccompanied minors arriving at the border, most families and single adults are being sent back to either Mexico or their home countries. Of the more than 172,000 people arrested at the border by US authorities last month, more than 103,000 were expelled under Title 42, according to the US Border Agency.
Biden administration officials have defended U.S. policy on the border with Mexico, saying they would rebuild a Trump-dismantled asylum system and expand federal funds to deal with the many unaccompanied minors who arrive.
Biden is also committed to helping tackle the “root causes” of migration from southern Mexico and Central America, from which most asylum seekers come.
Tuesday’s report entitled “Failure to Protect,” published by Al Otro Lado, Human Rights First and the Haitian Bridge Alliance, urges the government to completely repeal Title 42, which the migrants and asylum seekers groups said is serious Exposes itself to danger.
A family rests after crossing the Rio Grande River to the United States from Mexico in La Joya, Texas on April 7 [File: Go Nakamura/Reuters]Migrants from the so-called Northern Triangle countries, El Salvador, Guatemala and Honduras, were expelled under Title 42, along with Haitians, Ethiopians, Ghanaians, Nigerians and Yemenis, among others.
Since January 21, the day after Biden’s inauguration, at least 492 reports of violent attacks against people stuck on the U.S.-Mexico border or deported from the U.S. to Mexico have been reported.
“Asylum seekers who have returned to Mexico are abducted, raped and assaulted,” Kennji Kizuka, assistant director of research and analysis for refugee protection at Human Rights First, said during the press conference.
Black migrants and asylum seekers, as well as members of the LGBTQ community, were also particularly violent, according to the report.
“Many asylum seekers who fear waiting longer in Mexico have been injured trying to cross the border away from the ports of entry to apply for protection. Some tragically lost their lives on these crossings, ”said Kizuka.
The report came after the United Nations Children’s Rights Agency (UNICEF) reported that the number of migrant children in Mexico who have arrived so far this year has risen sharply from 380 to around 3,500 since the beginning of the year.
The rights group said around half of the children are without their parents, while many live in cramped accommodation.
“Most of the shelters I’ve visited in Mexico are already overcrowded and unable to accommodate the increasing numbers of children and families moving north,” said Jean Gough, UNICEF regional director for Latin America and the Caribbean, on Monday.
“We are deeply concerned that living conditions for immigrant children and mothers in Mexico could soon continue to deteriorate.”
On Wednesday, Mexican President Andres Manuel Lopez Obrador said his government was planning to strengthen the southern border in response to the surge in migrant arrivals, Reuters reported.
Mexico also intends to open more shelters, Lopez Obrador said, adding that there is now one child crossing the border for every three or four adult migrants.
Migrant children from Central America who were expelled from the USA and sent back to Mexico with their families under Title 42 will play on April 7th in an emergency shelter in Ciudad Juarez, Mexico [File: Jose Luis Gonzalez/Reuters]