December 2021

December 2021 guidance for implementation of the “Remain in Mexico” (RMX) program specified that individuals should be exempted from the program if they suffer from mental or physical health issues or disabilities; vulnerabilities from advanced age; or risk of harm due to sexual orientation or gender identity (original link). Despite that, a January 2022 Human Rights First report, discussing implementation of RMX in El Paso, reported several cases of CBP returning vulnerable people to Mexico.

– In December 2021, a gay Venezuelan asylum seeker was returned to Ciudad Juárez under RMX despite having informed CBP officers of his sexual orientation. While in CBP custody the man endured harassment because of his sexual orientation and asked multiple CBP officers if there were any protections for members of the LGBTQ community but was told “no.” The man reported to Human Rights First that he fears harm in Mexico due to his sexual orientation.

– A man with cancer was returned to Ciudad Juárez under RMX, even though he and his attorneys had informed DHS of his condition. As of mid-December 2021, the Border Project reported that DHS said that the agency was attempting to locate the man in Mexico.

– A Nicaraguan asylum seeker who suffers from chronic migraines was nevertheless returned to Ciudad Juárez under RMX in December 2021. The man told Human Rights First that CBP officers did not ask him any questions about his medical condition. The man was returned to Mexico without his medication, which CBP officers discarded while he was in custody. He has suffered several migraines while stranded in a shelter in Mexico.

The Border Project also identified dozens of individuals who CBP officers in El Paso failed to properly exclude from RMX in December 2021 based on DHS’s own screening criteria, including a man living with HIV; a man experiencing pain and limited use of his hand because the Mexican cartel that kidnapped him had amputated part of his finger on a video call with the man’s family to extort money from them; and a dozen LGBTQ individuals, one of whom had been raped and threatened with death in Mexico due to his sexual orientation.

A Shameful Record: Biden Administration’s Use of Trump Policies Endangers People Seeking Asylum (New York: Human Rights First: January 13, 2022)

— Adolfo Flores, Hamed Aleaziz, “US Border Authorities Have Incorrectly Placed Immigrants With Medical Conditions In The Relaunched ‘Remain In Mexico’ Program, Attorneys Say” (BuzzFeed, December 17, 2021)

Sector(s): El Paso, El Paso Field Office

Agency(ies): CBP

Event Type(s): Denial of Medical Care, Non-Return of Belongings, Return of Vulnerable Individuals

Accountability Status: Unknown

Victim Classification: Kidnap Victim, LGBTQ, Medical Condition, Nicaragua, Sexual Abuse Victim, Single Adult, Venezuela