Migrant Protection Protocols Put Children and Families at Great Risk of Violence & Harm, Severely Limit Access to Legal Protections, Gravely Violate Children’s Rights
Save the Children, together with Save the Children Action Network (SCAN), is calling for the immediate repeal of the U.S. government’s Migrant Protection Protocols – more commonly referred to as the “Remain in Mexico” policy – which are putting children and families at risk of violence, limiting their access to due process protections and gravely violating children’s rights.
Since January 2019, the U.S. government has returned close to 70,000 asylum seekers and migrants to Mexico under the policy. More than 13,000 of these are children and nearly 400 of them are infants. They often have to wait for months until they can go in front of a U.S. immigration judge, and multiple reports show they are forced to live on the streets, where they have been targets of assault, rape, and kidnapping. In addition, three of the six return points in Mexico are among the most violent cities in the world: Tijuana, Matamoros and Ciudad Juarez.
In accordance with international law, children and families should not be returned to countries where they may face violence or persecution.
“These children and families are escaping violence and extreme poverty in their own countries – the same harsh and dangerous conditions persisting in the border cities where they are now forced to stay,” said Mark Shriver, Senior Vice President of Save the Children’s U.S. Programs & Advocacy. “Seeking asylum is not a crime. As a nation, we are better than this, and children surely deserve better. Every child deserves to be treated with dignity and respect. Save the Children and SCAN protest any attempt to diminish children’s rights to protection and asylum, and we are speaking out on their behalf to make sure their rights are not violated.”
“The physical and emotional health of migrant children who remain in Mexico, waiting for their asylum request, has been affected. The uncertainty of not knowing what will happen unchains toxic stress that could result in permanent damage to their mental health,” said María Josefina Menéndez, CEO of Save the Children in Mexico. “Many of these children show withdrawal and isolation. As an example, a few days ago a girl from Honduras told Save the Children that she and her mother ran away because of violent threats from her father. She went on, ‘He knows we are in Mexico and said to my mum that he would find us.’”
Under current conditions, some children and families are compelled to request support to return to their countries, despite the dangers waiting there for them. Others try to cross in more remote and dangerous parts of the border, and some decide to seek asylum in Mexico, although security conditions are not being guaranteed.
Ahead of Universal Children’s Day, November 20 – the 60th anniversary of the day the United Nations Assembly adopted the Declaration of the Rights of the Child, and the 30th anniversary of Convention on the Rights of the Child, a human rights treaty that articulates children’s rights – Save the Children and SCAN are urging the United States Congress to pass H.R. 3731. The bill would repeal the harmful Migrant Protection Protocols and allow children and families to remain in the U.S. until their cases are heard. In addition, H.R. 3731 would ensure the humane treatment of children and families and halt family separation. Save the Children is also calling on the Mexican government to protect children on the move and returning to Mexico, making sure they are safe and provided access to health services, nutrition and education.
Save the Children continues to identify and support partners in U.S. border communities who are helping children and families on the move, and provide child protection training to shelter workers and volunteers. Through partners, Save the Children is also distributing donations of essential care and comfort items – including diapers, hygiene supplies, children’s clothing, art supplies and coloring books, stuffed animals, backpacks, water bottles – to children and families in shelters in U.S. border communities. In partnership with SCAN, Save the Children has generated more than 340,000 letters to the Administration and Members of Congress speaking out against violations of children’s rights at the border.
In Mexico, Save the Children has been implementing the Migrant Child Care Program since 2018, providing social and emotional support, emergency education and health and hygiene programs to children and their families in 15 shelters in Chiapas, Oaxaca, Tijuana and Chihuahua. To date, more than 15,000 have been helped. In addition, in collaboration with international development agencies, Save the Children works to address root causes and curb migration by participating in the Program for the Prevention of Forced Migration from Communities of Origin.