News » Report Reveals Human Rights Violations Facing Haitian Asylum Seekers in Mexico

Report Reveals Human Rights Violations Facing Haitian Asylum Seekers in Mexico

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May 08, 2024

Today the Center for Gender & Refugee Studies (CGRS), Haitian Bridge Alliance (HBA), and the UC Law SF Haiti Justice Partnership (HJP) published a new report, Precluding Protection: Findings from Interviews with Haitian Asylum Seekers in Central and Southern Mexico. As the United States and Mexico meet with regional partners in Guatemala this week to discuss their obligations and shared values under the 2022 Los Angeles Declaration on Migration and Protection, the groups call on the countries’ governments to recognize the protection needs of Haitians and collaborate to meet them.

Drawn from over 100 interviews with asylum seekers and local service providers in Tapachula and Mexico City, the report discusses myriad barriers to protection and inhumane conditions facing Haitian asylum seekers in Mexico. While the United States and Mexico have adopted some limited measures to protect Haitians seeking safety in the region, these initiatives fall short of the need and are undermined by other policies and practices that punish and deny protection to asylum seekers. The report finds that vulnerable Black migrants in Mexico are stranded in effective open-air prisons, denied the ability to travel or work, forced to navigate legal proceedings with little to no language access, and subjected to forced evictions, extortion, and physical violence.

Despite acute and unprecedented levels of violence, the United States continues to intercept and repatriate Haitians both by sea and by air, sending them directly back to Haiti, where they face grave harm. At its southern border, and as far south as Mexico City by way of a “geofence,” the U.S. government primarily relies on the CBP One smartphone app to process migrants. Access to the asylum process is largely restricted to those who can schedule an appointment on the app in advance. But the report concludes that CBP One remains plagued by glitches, discriminatory shortcomings, and accessibility failures. Interviews with asylum seekers revealed that migrants’ right to seek safety in Mexico is similarly hindered by long delays, biased adjudication of asylum cases, and onerous systems that preclude meaningful access to protection systems.

According to Nicole Phillips, Legal Director of Haitian Bridge Alliance, “Haitian refugees are one of the most vulnerable populations in the world, we must do better to protect them. Our delegation spoke with Haitian families in Mexico who had no protection, nowhere to sleep, no clean water to drink, and who felt shut out of the asylum systems in Mexico and the United States. We implore states to implement the UN Refugee Agency’s recent guidance on protecting refugees fleeing Haiti and extend the Cartagena definition to Haitians.” 

Blaine Bookey, Legal Director of the Center for Gender and Refugee Studies (CGRS) commented, “While the United States and Mexico have taken some steps to offer safe haven to Haitian refugees, these limited measures have been undermined by cruel and ineffective policies that deprive asylum seekers of their rights and fly in the face of the commitments made in the Los Angeles Declaration. What we witnessed in Mexico falls far below the standard of care the Declaration envisions and has only caused more chaos and suffering in the region. Governments cannot punish and deport their way out of a human rights crisis. Our leaders must stop playing politics with peoples’ lives and cooperate as effectively to provide protection as they do to deny it.”   

“Haiti is in crisis. And the United States has a particular responsibility to Haitian asylum seekers, as the U.S. government has contributed so much to the instability and violence in Haiti today. Proactively facilitating and accepting Haitian asylum seekers is the bare minimum, and yet the United States continues to go well out of its way to deny safety to vulnerable Haitians,” said HJP Co-Chair Savannah Carter. “The situation on the ground in Mexico is unacceptable.”

In their report, CGRS, HBA, and HJP urge the Mexican and U.S. governments to work together to guarantee the rights and safety of Haitians and others seeking asylum, and to guarantee safe, orderly, and humane migration pathways for those in need of protection.

The groups specifically call on Mexico to:

  1. Apply the more expansive Cartagena Declaration refugee definition to protect Haitians fleeing deadly violence;

  2. Permit freedom of movement and grant work authorization to ensure asylum seekers can find safety and support themselves in Mexico; and

  3. Ensure adequate language access for Kreyòl and French speakers at every stage of the asylum process.

The groups specifically call on the United States to:

  1. Halt all removal flights and at-sea repatriations to Haiti;

  2. Immediately extend and redesignate Haiti for Temporary Protected Status (TPS) to protect Haitian community members already in the United States;

  3. Expedite processing and availability of the CHNV and Haitian Family Reunification Parole Programs;

  4. Release all Haitian asylum seekers held in U.S. immigration detention and reject any plans to detain Haitians at Guantanamo Bay;

  5. Adequately staff ports of entry and increase infrastructure to process people seeking asylum at the U.S. southern border; and

  6. Overhaul the CBP One app to ensure equity and language justice; integrate the app as one tool among many to facilitate access to the asylum process, rather than a mechanism to preemptively deny protection.