Prepared by American Friends Service Committee, Alianza Americas, Evangelical Lutheran Church of America, Kids in Need of Defense, Latin America Working Group, Women’s Refugee Commission, Washington Office on Latin America
On Saturday, Oct. 14th a migrant caravan departed from San Pedro Sula, Honduras. Since then, it has been moving through Guatemala towards Mexico. The origins of the caravan are unknown. The exact numbers of individuals on the caravan are unclear and there may be smaller groups and not just one large caravan. The media has reported that the groups include families, women and children.
- People fleeing violence in Central America should be encouraged to present themselves to immigration authorities to express their fears, not illegally turned away at ports of entry or criminalized for entering between ports of entry to seek asylum. Increased border militarization comes at great cost to programs that benefit local communities and families. Deploying additional law enforcement or immigration enforcement agencies to the southern border wastes taxpayer dollars, endangers the rights of border communities, and does nothing to make us safer.
- People have the right to seek asylum in a country where they feel safe, including the United States or Mexico. No law forces individuals to seek asylum in Mexico or justifies the rejection of asylum protection in the United States based on the possibility to seek asylum in Mexico. An individual’s right to seek international protection should be upheld by the U.S. and Mexican governments according to international law, Mexico’s constitution, and U.S. law which recognize the right to present oneself at the border to seek protection. The U.S. and Mexican governments should uphold due process, the right not to be detained indefinitely, to not be returned to danger, and the right to maintain family unity and not be separated. Increased border enforcement should not be intended to deter individuals from seeking protection.
- The caravan does not represent a massive influx of individuals to the U.S.-Mexico border. Even with the latest figures, border crossings remain at historic lows
compared to past decades. As Customs and Border Protection (CBP) data demonstrates, southwest border crossings for FY18 are lower than FY13, FY14 and FY16 for the same period to date. Monthly border crossings for FY17 represented a record low since the 1970s.
- The U.S. should ensure that its policies and practices address and do not exacerbate the root causes of migration from Central America. U.S. policies should be rights-based, support anti-corruption efforts, community-based violence prevention strategies, sustainable rural development and access to justice and address sexual and gender-based violence. Foreign assistance should not go to support abusive security forces in the region. Deterring individuals with protection concerns from leaving their home country constitutes a violation of international human rights law. Returning individuals to danger without screening for protection concerns constitutes a violation of the right to non-refoulement, non-return to danger. The U.S. should not pressure Central American governments to stop their citizens from leaving.
- The repression of Honduran citizens by security forces following contested elections last year has fueled forced displacement and migration of that country’s citizens. The U.S. backed that repression by recognizing the government of President Juan Orlando Hernandez despite highly questionable elections, evidence of corruption, and human rights violations. Until these violations are investigated and prosecuted and assistance to the Honduran military is withheld, among other steps to address the repression, the emergency situation in Honduras will continue fueling displacement and migration.
- Nonprofit organizations and faith communities have reported displacement of communities in Honduras due to high levels of violence and an increased lack of trust in government institutions since the 2017 election. A lack of progress on anti-corruption efforts, the unavailability of medicine in the public healthcare system, and continued corruption within policy and military forces, compounds the violence that Hondurans face and is also driving displacement and individuals to seek safety.
- The Trump Administration cut off a key path to protection in the United States for Central American children by ending the Central American Minors Refugee Processing and Parole Program. Not only did the administration cut off this authorized channel to protection, it also revoked protection that had been offered to nearly 3,000 individuals under the program, and abandoned nearly 4,000 cases that were waiting to be processed. Closing the program and abandoning nearly 7,000 children and close family members who were seeking protection in the U.S. through the program left many in danger and with no option but to flee to Mexico or the United States in search of safety.
- Migrants traveling through Mexico face dangerous terrain and criminal networks. Migrants who enter Mexican territory are subject to crimes by corrupt migration enforcement agents, often working in collusion with organized crime, criminal networks that target migrants, and other dangerous actors. Numerous reports and articles have highlighted the murder, kidnapping, rape, human trafficking, and extortion endured by migrants in Mexico. 99% of crimes against migrants remain in impunity. Increased enforcement has forced migrants to take more dangerous and clandestine paths.
- The Mexican government has maintained a consistent level of apprehensions and deportations of migrants under its Southern Border Program, with U.S. support, while its asylum system remains weak. Apprehensions and deportations of migrants in Mexico have remained at consistent levels for the past four years. Deportations in the first two months of 2018 have already surpassed those from the same period in 2017. In 2015, Mexico deported more Central Americans than the United States. While the Mexican government has made some improvements in screening individuals for protection concerns, allowing some asylum seekers to undergo their processing outside of detention facilities, and increasing the staff of its National Commission to Assist Refugees (COMAR) with the support of the UNHCR, obstacles and delays still mar a weak and underfunded asylum system.