Asylum officers periodically also raised concerns about why certain people with medical issues were placed into the program as well, according to the report.
“In one October 2019 email exchange, asylum office staff alerted CBP that interview testimony indicated that an 11-year-old boy in MPP had severe epilepsy, with convulsions leading to loss of memory and vomiting,” the report states. “The response from CBP indicated that CBP was aware of the child’s condition and that he had gone through two prior medical screenings while remaining in the MPP program.”
In an email referring a family to asylum officers for an assessment on their fears of remaining in Mexico, CBP officials told USCIS staff about a 4-year-old child in MPP who had been found to have chicken pox and his young sister who had been sexually assaulted. Elsewhere, an asylum officer told border officials that a woman with uterine cancer who had been separated from her husband had been placed into MPP.
In November, the Texas Civil Rights Project sued the Trump administration, claiming that DHS had sent back asylum-seekers with disabilities.
The group located several plaintiffs who had been pushed into MPP despite their health conditions, including a 34-year-old woman who had a pituitary tumor that pressed against her brain, a 13-year-old child with only one functioning lung, and an 8-year-old boy who had a urethral malformation that required surgery.
“The ‘Remain in Mexico’ policy is inherently unfit and violent for any asylum seeker, but it is particularly dangerous, and unlawful, for those living with disabilities,” said Erin Thorn Vela, senior attorney with the Texas Civil Rights Project, at the time of the filing.
It’s unclear how medical conditions and disabilities would be handled under a new version of MPP, but a court filing this month indicated that Mexican officials had wanted improvements to the program. Blas Nuñez-Neto, a senior DHS official appointed by President Biden, said Mexican officials had told the administration that they had concerns about “particularly vulnerable” individuals being turned back to Mexico.
“In particular, the GOM [government of Mexico] raised concerns about certain populations being enrolled in MPP, including particularly elderly or sick individuals, as well as other populations, such as LGBTQI individuals. GOM made clear that it expects the reimplementation of MPP to address these concerns,” Nuñez-Neto wrote in a court filing.
In December, CBP issued additional guidance explaining that immigrants who are medically cleared for travel, including those who have preexisting conditions or have a significant disability but are with family, can be forced to remain in Mexico. The additional guidance seemed to clear the way for individuals with medical conditions to be turned back at the border. The investigators wrote in their report that such a standard was insufficient.
In the internal report obtained by BuzzFeed News, investigators also substantiated allegations that families had been separated during the MPP process.
“In emails provided to CRCL by CBP, CBP personnel state that it is USBP procedure to separate one parent from the rest of the family and only maintain family unity for the other parent and children,” the report states.
CRCL officials wrote that “married couples and children with their parents or legal guardians should be processed together and scheduled for the same hearing in immigration court. Failing to do so may not only impact the family’s safety and well-being while waiting for their immigration court hearing but may also impact any claims for relief filed by the family.”
In one case, a Guatemalan man who spoke an indigenous language and limited Spanish had said that he was separated from his son when he was forced into MPP despite the fact that he had a birth certificate. DHS records reviewed by the investigators showed that there was no mention that he was accompanied by his son, but an “addendum” in the database indicated that he was later released in the US to be “re-united with his child.” There was no explanation for the separation in the records.
Unaccompanied immigrant children, according to the report, were also subject to the policy, despite agency guidelines prohibiting such a decision. “Documents provided to CRCL by ICE [Enforcement and Removal Operations] indicate that CBP has at times placed [unaccompanied immigrant children] into the MPP program, in violation of the MPP Guiding Principles,” the report states.
Elsewhere, investigators found that medical screenings were not consistently documented, and DHS lacked a centralized system to track cases of individuals forced to remain in Mexico.
Earlier this year, the Biden administration rescinded the policy and began to allow thousands of people caught up in Remain in Mexico to come to the US. Now the Biden administration is faced with the prospect of reviving the program to its original form, as ordered by US District Judge Matthew Kacsmaryk and held up by the Supreme Court. DHS officials told staffers in August that the agency was taking steps to reimplement and enforce MPP in good faith. It also said the agency was working with the State Department and the Mexican government to ensure the “expeditious reimplementation” of Remain in Mexico.
The potential reimplementation of the plan has been met with criticism by immigrant advocates. On Saturday, a group of advocates left a virtual meeting with Biden administration officials over the future of the program. The advocates said they would not have conversations with the Biden administration due to the continuance of policies enacted under Trump.
Then, this week, a group of immigration attorneys and advocates sent a letter to lead Biden officials saying they wanted no part in helping start the program back up. This comes as the administration works to improve access to attorneys for those stuck in Mexico in anticipation of reinitiating the program.
“We refuse to be complicit in a program that facilitates the rape, torture, death, and family separations of people seeking protection by committing to provide legal services,” the letter read.
Some of the issues found by CRCL, including those surrounding language access, echo those discussed in a separate DHS report released internally and obtained by BuzzFeed News in 2019.
Source : https://www.buzzfeednews.com/article/hamedaleaziz/leaked-report-remain-in-mexico-children1063