Remain in Mexico: Human Rights Abuses on the U.S.-Mexico Border

By: Tia DeRuiter

In January of 2019, former U.S. President, Donald Trump, and his administration,
enacted the “Remain in Mexico” policy (MPP) (Abdalla, 2022). Since then, this program has
become a contentious issue, making up a key tenant in Joe Biden’s 2020 election campaign
(Abdalla, 2022). Shortly after President Biden’s inauguration, he ceased accepting new
enrollments in this program, and finalized the eradication of MPP in June of 2021 (Abdalla,
2022). While fulfilling his promises, two states, Texas and Missouri contested the removal in
court, and won, the program being reinstated in August (Abdalla, 2022). While Biden has
since asked the Supreme Court to overrule this decision, and will begin doing so in April of
2022, the program continues (Abdalla, 2022).

Former president, Donald Trump, made much of campaign and tenure, on the premise
of anti-migration and xenophobic sentiments (Abdalla, 2022). The MPP program is in
consequences of these discriminatory ideologies, looking to end “frivolous” asylum-claims
(Abdalla, 2022)). This program mandates the removal of any arriving migrants to the
U.S.-Mexico border, forcing them to, much like its namesake, remain in Mexico (Human
Rights Watch, 2022). These migrants must stay in Mexico while their claims are heard in
court, processed, and ultimately until the decision has been made to grant or deny them entry
into the U.S. (Abdalla, 2022).

Since its establishment in 2019, this program has come under heavy criticism for the
dangerous conditions and violence asylum seekers are subjected to as a result (Abdalla, 2022;
Human Rights Watch, 2022). It is estimated that over 71,000 migrants have been a part of this
program in its duration, including children, and people with disabilities and chronic health
issues (Human Rights Watch, 2022). Subsequently, many of these asylum seekers have
reported to be at risk of and experienced violence, including rape, extortion, kidnapping, and
murder (Abdalla, 2022). According to Human Rights Watch (HRW), this number reached
upwards of 1,500 as of February 2021 (Human Rights Watch, 2022). Many of these migrants
have also reported a lack of access to basic services, such as health care (Human Rights
Watch, 2022). In addition to these grave violations of human rights, these asylum seekers
have also been forced to to wait months, and even years to have their claims heard in court
(Abdalla, 2022). This program is evidently a violation of human rights law, international law,
and migration law, and yet it continues.

Since courts in Missouri and Texas ruled in favour of reinstating the program last
year, Biden and his administration has made strides to make the process safer for
asylum-seekers (Abdalla, 2022). Including providing interviews to evaluate the threat of
returning to Mexico, determining whether these asylum seekers are well-founded in their
fear, and thus not safe to return to Mexico (Abdalla, 2022). In addition to making access to
lawyers readily available, and mandating that case decisions be made within 180 days
(Abdalla, 2022). While these changes may be a step towards protecting more migrants, they
are also largely symbolic. Migrants and asylum seekers alike continue to have their rights
violated, and those who are forced back to Mexico, remain in danger.

This programs, and others like it, such as Title 42, a policy restricting asylum-claims
during Covid-19, are evidence of the United States’ failing immigration laws, and
xenophobic foundations (Human Rights Watch, 2022; Montoya-Galvez, 2022). It has been,
according to HRW (2022), fundamental to Donald Trump’s efforts to destroy the
asylum-system in the U.S., and to the exacerbation of the inadequacies of the current system.
Ultimately, creating an institution that is deleterious to immigrants, and in contradiction to
many laws. Sparking investigations into this program, and others like it; court challenges, and
appeals to previously made legislative decisions by human rights groups, and others (Human
Rights Watch, 2022).

In February of 2022, the Supreme Court answered calls-to-action by many of these
organizations, deciding to rule on the ultimate fate of the MPP program (Montoya-Galvez,
2022). Arguments will begin in April of this year, against the court decisions to restore the
policy (Montoya-Galvez, 2022). This case is a part of many other’s taken out by the Biden
administration to fight the numerous blocks the Texan government has made to President
Biden’s immigration policies (Montoya-Galvez, 2022). While there is hope that the Supreme
Court will overturn the smaller court’s decisions, effectively ending the MPP’s reign, it does
not end the atrocious conditions migrants experience when attempting to enter the United
States. The high-levels of migrant apprehensions, and later detainments, in conjunction with
other discriminatory policies, such as the aforementioned Title 42, continue to contribute to
the deplorable circumstances surrounding migration (Montoya-Galvez, 2022).


  1. Abdalla, J. (2022, January 7). ‘Remain in Mexico 2.0’: How did the Trump-era policy get
    revived? Aljazeera.
    2. Human Rights Watch. (2022, February 7). ‘Remain in Mexico’: Overview and Resources.
    Human Rights Watch.
    3. Montoya-Galvez, C. (2022, February 19). Supreme Court agrees to weigh in on legal fight
    over the ‘Remain in Mexico’ border policy . CBS News.

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