“Every time I see my daughters in pain here, I feel a lump in my throat. I cry during the nights.
This is how a Honduran mother describes her life in Piedras Negras, a Mexican town across the border from the US state of Texas, after being deported from the United States last month with her daughters. two and seven years old and other members of his family. Members of a gang she had testified against in Honduras followed her to Mexico, she said, fueling fears of violence.
A family from El Salvador who was attacked in Mexico by a gang that threatened to kill them in their home country was also returned from the US-Mexico border to Tijuana in February. “I don’t feel safe. I’m so scared. It’s a dangerous place, ”said the father, who added that he had recently witnessed a kidnapping while waiting for the bus.
A 14-year-old boy from Cuba, deported from the United States to Mexico in February with his grandmother, is so fearful and anxious that he will be kidnapped by smugglers that he has started biting his nails. “Please tell the president to have mercy on us,” his grandmother said.
These are just a few of the stories shared in a new report, published this week by three US-based rights groups, which details the experiences of migrants and asylum seekers stranded at the US-Mexico border or deported from the United States under a US policy. Trump era called Title 42.
“That Title 42 continues to be asserted as a public health measure is deeply troubling,” said Nicole Ramos, director of the border rights project at Al Otro Lado, a legal and humanitarian aid group.
Speaking at a press conference on Tuesday afternoon, Ramos said volunteers were receiving a growing body of information that migrants and asylum seekers in Tijuana, Mexico were abducted by groups organized criminals and detained for ransom.
“Our staff are receiving videos of asylum seekers with guns pointed at their heads; children held over the mouths of barking dogs – all threatened that if their families do not pay… they will be killed and their body parts scattered, never to be recovered or identified ”, she said said.
492 attacks since the end of January
First invoked by former President Donald Trump in March 2020 due to the COVID-19 pandemic, Title 42 allows US authorities to expel most migrants quickly who arrive at the US border under the pretext of public health.
While President Joe Biden no longer uses Title 42 to deport unaccompanied minors arriving at the border, most families and single adults are being returned either to Mexico or to their countries of origin. Of more than 172,000 people arrested at the border by US authorities last month, more than 103,000 were deported under Title 42, according to the US border agency The data.
Biden administration officials defended US policy at the border with Mexico, saying they are rebuilding an asylum system that was dismantled by Trump and expanding federal resources to deal with the large numbers of unaccompanied minors arriving.
Biden is also committed to helping tackle the “root causes” of migration from southern Mexico and Central America, where most asylum seekers come from.
But Tuesday report, titled Failure to Protect, and published by Al Otro Lado, Human Rights First and the Haitian Bridge Alliance, urges the administration to completely cancel Title 42, which groups say exposes migrants and asylum seekers to serious danger.
Migrants from the so-called Northern Triangle countries of El Salvador, Guatemala and Honduras have been deported under Title 42, along with Haitians, Ethiopians, Ghanaians, Nigerians and Yemenis, among others, according to the report. report.
Since January 21, the day after Biden’s inauguration, there have been at least 492 reports of violent attacks on people stranded at the US-Mexico border or deported from the US to Mexico, he said. declared.
“Asylum seekers returned to Mexico are kidnapped, raped and assaulted,” Kennji Kizuka, associate director of research and analysis for refugee protection at Human Rights First, told the press conference.
Black migrants and asylum seekers, as well as members of the LGBTQ community, were particularly vulnerable to violence, according to the report.
“Many asylum seekers fearing to wait longer in Mexico have been injured trying to cross the border far from ports of entry to seek protection. Some have tragically lost their lives during these passages, ”Kizuka said.
The report came after the United Nations agency for the rights of the child (UNICEF) reported that Mexico had seen a massive increase in the number of migrant children so far this year, from 380 to around 3,500 since the start of the year.
The rights group said about half of the children are without their parents, while many live in cramped shelters.
“Most of the shelters that I have visited in Mexico are already overcrowded and cannot accommodate the growing number of children and families migrating north,” Jean Gough, regional director of the UNICEF for Latin America and the Caribbean.
“We are deeply concerned that the living conditions of migrant children and mothers in Mexico may soon deteriorate further.”
Mexican President Andres Manuel Lopez Obrador on Wednesday said his government was planning to strengthen its southern border in response to increased migrant arrivals, Reuters news agency reported.
Mexico also intends to open more shelters, Lopez Obrador said, adding that one child now crosses the border for every three or four adult migrants.