U.N. calls Biden admin’s deportation flights of asylum-seekers deep into Mexico ‘troubling’

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The U.S. already has a history of intentionally deporting Mexican nationals to remote areas of Mexico. It’s a form of deterrence, meant to make an attempt to return to the U.S. as difficult as possible. But the Associated Press (AP) reports that these Title 42 deportations “appear to be the first time that Central Americans have been flown to Mexico.” The Biden administration will reportedly begin to carry out two dozen of these flights a month, “with hopes of ramping up,” and has the cooperation of Mexico.

The cruel result here is vulnerable people stranded far from the nation where they sought to exercise their right to ask for asylum, and far from home.

“No one told me anything. They never heard my case and why I went to the United States,” 32-year-old Honduran asylum-seeker Karla Leiva told the AP. She was quickly deported to southern Mexico without her chance to make a claim after arriving to the U.S. with her young daughter. “I couldn’t tell them that they were extorting me and that they threatened to kidnap my little daughter and take my adolescent sons to join the gang. That’s why I left the country.”

In his statement, Reynolds said that “[r]emoval from the U.S. to southern Mexico, outside any official transfer agreement with appropriate legal safeguards, increases the risk of chain refoulement—pushbacks by successive countries—of vulnerable people in danger, in contravention of international law and the humanitarian principles of the 1951 Refugee Convention.” The AP reports that after Leiva’s deportation flight landed in Mexico, Mexican authorities instructed her “to walk into Guatemala and look for the shelter. No one registered their entrance into Guatemala.”

“No one signed any deportation. I didn’t sign,” Leiva continued to the AP. “They tricked us. They didn’t even give me a paper.” 

These deportation flights have been condemned by a number of other human rights organizations as well. “These expulsions are illegal, inhumane, and blatant violations of U.S. refugee law and the Refugee Convention,” said Eleanor Acer, senior director of refugee protection for Human Rights First. “While the president and his administration have repeatedly touted a commitment to human rights, this new scheme makes clear that they are willing to disregard the safety of people seeking refuge at our border and sacrifice the United States’ moral standing.”

“Leading epidemiologists and public health experts have called on both the Trump and Biden administrations to stop using Title 42 to block and expel asylum seekers, and have repeatedly confirmed that the United States can safely process asylum seekers by using science based public health measures,” Human Rights First said. But in a shameful decision at the beginning of the month, the Biden administration announced it would continue Title 42 indefinitely.

The Biden administration should have ended that policy once and for all. But now it’s created a shame of its own in these deportation flights. “Mothers with babies under a year old were among those bused to Guatemala, left stranded in a remote village surrounded by farmland and jungle, and told to start walking South,” Human Rights First said.

“UNHCR reiterates the May 2021 appeal by UN High Commissioner for Refugees Filippo Grandi for the United States government to swiftly lift the Title 42 public health-related asylum restrictions that remain in effect and to restore access to asylum for people whose lives depend on it,” Reynolds  continued. “Apparently you can’t say it enough, so we’re saying it again. It is legal to seek asylum,” Justice Action Center tweeted. That applies no matter which administration is in power. “It is illegal to refoul people to a country where they will be persecuted. This pass-the-buck mentality with people’s lives and safety is outrageous. We expect more from this administration.

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