U.S. sends first families to Mexico to
await asylum, rights groups sue
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[February 15, 2019]
By Lizbeth Diaz and Mica Rosenberg
MEXICO CITY/NEW YORK (Reuters) - The United
States began sending Central American families seeking asylum back to
Mexico this week, a Mexican immigration source said on Thursday, while
U.S. human rights groups sued the Trump administration, saying the
policy puts migrants in danger.
Five families with a total of 16 people, including children from El
Salvador, Honduras and Guatemala, arrived in the Mexican border city of
Tijuana on Wednesday, according to a person who works in migration for
the Mexican government, who asked not to be named.
In late January, the United States began sending non-Mexican migrants
who had crossed at the U.S. border with Mexico back to Mexico to wait as
their asylum requests are processed, a program called Migrant Protection
Protocols. But until this week, only individual adults had been sent
back, not children in family groups.
Rights groups say the program endangers asylum seekers by forcing them
to remain in regions of Mexico experiencing record levels of violence.
"Both the U.S. and Mexican governments know that the border area is
unsafe for women and children," Michelle Brané, director of the Migrant
Rights and Justice program at the Women's Refugee Commission (WRC), said
in a statement on the decision to return the families to Mexico.
"The U.S. government knows full well that asylum-seeking families are no
threat to this nation."
Sixty-three people have returned to Mexico so far under the program, the
government source said.
Two shelters in Tijuana said they had received the families. They asked
not to be named to avoid revealing their location.
The American Civil Liberties Union and immigrant rights groups filed a
lawsuit on behalf of 11 anonymous asylum seekers on Thursday. The groups
asked a U.S. judge to revoke the policy and order the government to
bring the migrants back to the United States while their cases are
The 11 asylum seekers from Central America were returned to Mexico since
Jan. 30 to wait out their immigration cases, and now fear for their
lives, according to the complaint.
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Police escort a bus bound to Monterrey, transporting Mexican
migrants deported from the United States, as it leaves a bus station
in Reynosa, Mexico January 11, 2019. Picture taken January 11, 2019.
The plaintiffs include a lesbian who said she was raped because of
her sexual orientation and was forced to flee Honduras after her
partner's family threatened to kill them.
The lawsuit alleges the policy endangers migrants and violates U.S.
immigration and administrative law, as well as universal norms of
A spokesman for the U.S. Department of Justice said the government
would defend the policy in court.
"Congress has explicitly authorized the Department of Homeland
Security to return aliens arriving from a contiguous foreign
territory to that territory during that alien's immigration court
proceedings," said Steven Stafford of the DOJ.
In another sign of the political tension over immigration, the White
House on Thursday said U.S. President Donald Trump will declare a
national emergency to try to obtain funds for his promised wall on
the Mexican border when he signs a bill to avert another government
Mexico's National Migration Institute and the U.S. Department of
Homeland Security did not immediately respond to requests for
(Reporting by Lizbeth Diaz in Mexico City, Mica Rosenberg in New
York and Kristina Cooke in San Francisco, Tom Hals in Wilmington,
Delaware; writing by Julia Love; editing by Frank Jack Daniel and
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