EL PASO, Texas (Border Report) – Migrant advocates on Monday shared stories of rape, assault and kidnapping endured by clients forced to wait in Mexico while U.S. courts rule on their asylum cases.
The gathering next to two Downtown federal courthouses came ahead of a Supreme Court decision on whether the Biden administration can end the Migrant Protection Protocols program (MPP), also known as “Remain in Mexico.”
A federal judge in Texas last year ruled Biden ended the Trump-era policy unlawfully and ordered him to restore it. The high court is expected to rule on the appeal Wednesday at the latest.
“We hope they say the Texas judge did not have the right to tell the administration (what to do). Any president should have the right to change the policies of his predecessor,” said Marysol Castro, managing attorney at Diocesan Migrant and Refugee Services in El Paso. “(Asylum) is a legal process, (the migrants) aren’t doing anything illegal; they’re not criminals yet they’re treated like criminals.”
Castro and other members of the “Safe not stranded” campaign laid flowers and a wreath on the sidewalk leading to the courthouse symbolizing the more than 70,000 migrants placed on MPP by both Trump and Biden, some of whom have died violently in Mexico.
Crystal Sandoval, director of strategic initiatives at Las Americans Immigrant Advocacy Center read letters from clients detailing violence suffered in Juarez, Mexico, after U.S. immigration officials placed them on MPP and sent them across the border.
“We were thrown to the streets without the opportunity to state why we were there, why we left our country,” Sandoval spoke on behalf of a 37-year-old woman from Honduras. “In Mexico, I was met with violence, cruelty and worse. I was kidnapped, trafficked and raped. My 9-year-old daughter was witness to this and she herself was sexually abused.”
U.S. officials took the woman, Azalia, out of MPP after her daughter escaped the kidnappers and advocates helped the mother and child. The two are in the United States now.
Sandoval quoted clients saying MPP is a lie because it does not protect them, but rather exposes them to crime, scorn, hunger and homelessness in Juarez, which a Mexico City think-tank that tracks homicides worldwide last year named as the sixth most dangerous city in the world.
Other testimonies included a Nicaraguan man who was picked on by locals at a migrant shelter in Juarez and eventually was told to leave in the middle of the night.
“These are some of many very compelling (stories) that are being lived right now. I think as a community, if we unite, we can give these people due process and the welcoming they deserve,” Sandoval said.