LAREDO, TX (KGNS) - A new report by a human rights group shines a light on what some migrant and asylum seekers are allegedly experiencing since the implementation of the Migrant Protection Protocol across the southern border.
Many of the testimonies include migrants allegedly going through beatings, kidnappings, and rape in border cities like Nuevo Laredo.
Since March, the non-profit organization Human Rights First has been collecting data from asylum seekers in Mexico, attorneys, court monitors, academic researchers, Mexican government officials, human rights organizations, legal monitors, and the media.
They have been watching migrant hearings from the Laredo tent facility in San Antonio where the immigration judges are at and have gathered research that's both disturbing and troubling.
It all began in January when the Trump Administration implemented the 'Remain in Mexico' policy, also called the Migrant Protection Protocol. This required asylum seekers from Central America to wait in Mexico for their hearings.
It’s that policy they say has created a humanitarian fiasco.
Since then, Human Rights First have found over 600 recorded reports of rape, kidnapping, torture and other violent attacks against people who've been sent back to Mexico.
These are just the ones they know of. They believe what they have is just the tip of the iceberg.
Some of the testimonies they received have come from Nuevo Laredo.
These are just some of their findings:
Seven and ten year-old-girls from Honduras were threatened with rape by kidnappers who abducted their brother and father, after the Department of Homeland Security returned their family to Nuevo Laredo.
A Honduran asylum seeker and his two children, a 12-year-old boy and a 16-year-old girl, were kidnapped while returning from a Laredo MPP tent hearing in September.
In a press conference, the action Customs and Border Protection Commissioner Mark Morgan addresses report and the fact that migrants are being sent back to the dangerous conditions in Mexico.
"I can assure you that we're having dialogues with the government of Mexico on a daily basis to ensure that the travel of these individuals who are amenable to MPP are going back and forth in a safe and secure environment, we're having those conversations every single day. Make no mistake, I want to be very clear on this, if somebody is abused if somebody is exploited there's only one individual is to blame for that. That's the smuggling organizations, the cartels who are doing the exploitation, and abusing these people."
The research also looks into the protection that is offered at shelters which they say is non-existent because of the incidents reported.
One includes: a 28 -year-old Salvadoran man who was sent to Nuevo Laredo under the MPP and went missing in September after leaving a shelter to go to work.
He was still missing when his pregnant wife and son went to their hearing in Laredo in November.
The report also provides details on what migrants experience during their hearings, what they say are "anomalies" in the system.
For example, a Venezuelan asylum seeker ruled by a U.S. Immigration Judge to be a refugee entitled to withholding of removal in October was returned by CBP to Nuevo Laredo despite the ruling. When he attempted to come back into Laredo last month, he was nearly kidnapped.
When these issues about migrants being sent back to Mexico after being approved for protection was brought up to Commissioner Morgan, he was surprised by that and said that it was likely a mistake.
"It should not be happening, so that happens they stay for their appeal and etc. What may be happening is that whole process has been expedited greatly but we can check into that."
Human rights first recommends that congress do several things to prevent the things they're seeing including withhold appropriations to DHS and the Department of Justice used to carry out MPP, adopt the Refugee Protection Act, hold MPP oversight hearings, and conduct official visits to Mexican border towns, CBP facilities and Border Patrol stations on the southern border, and immigration courts to monitor the hearings.
If you'd like to take a look at the report, you can click here.