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02 November 2020 – Mexico

A U.S. Customs and Border Officer Guiding Asylum-Seeking Migrants Across a Bridge from Nuevo Laredo, Mexico, into the U.S., (Fernando Llano, Associated Press,
A U.S. Customs and Border Officer Guiding Asylum-Seeking Migrants Across a Bridge from Nuevo Laredo, Mexico, into the U.S., (Fernando Llano, Associated Press, "U.S. Expels Migrant Children From Other Countries to Mexico," The New York Times, 30 October 2020,

The National Institute for Migration (INM) has denied that there are COVID-19 cases amongst immigration detainees. However, Mexico’s National Human Rights Commission (CNDH) has revealed that at least 19 Honduran detainees confined in the Tapachula Estacion Migratoria (Siglo XXI) detention centre in Chiapas have tested positive. The CNDH also reported that the facility is overcrowded, that face masks are not distributed, that social distancing is not adhered to, and that no antibacterial gel is provided for detainees to use. The 19 infected detainees were reportedly transferred to the El Hueyate Estacion Provisional detention centre after their cases were detected.

Having previously taken steps to minimise overcrowding by releasing significant numbers of immigration detainees (see 3 June Mexico update on this platform), non-nationals are once again being arrested and detained in facilities across the country. Despite the fact that immigration detainees have tested positive, and at least one non-national has died since the onset of the pandemic, media outlets have reported that no agency has been regularly testing detained migrants. Civil society organisations have denounced this and urged authorities to step up medical monitoring and to ensure that assistance is available. In a report, several NGOs highlighted the fact that only one detention facility–the Saltillo Estacion Migratoria–has 24-hour medical service in operation, and that the supply of soap and water in many facilities remains “very limited.”

An internal email from a senior US border control agent obtained by the New York Times revealed that migrant children from countries such as Guatemala, Honduras, and El Salvador have been sent to Mexico–despite their lack of family connections in the country. These expulsions have taken place under the Trump administration’s aggressive border closure policy, cited as a necessary step to prevent the virus from spreading into the U.S. However, these expulsions appear to violate a diplomatic agreement between the two countries, which provides that only Mexican children and others who have adult supervision can be pushed back into Mexico after attempting to cross the border. The Times reports that most of the children have been put into the care of child welfare authorities in Mexico.

In June 2019, Mexico and the United States signed an agreement to work together to control the movements of asylum seekers and other migrants to the U.S border. The agreement expanded the implementation of the “Quédate en México” (Remain in Mexico) programme (officially known as Migrant Protection Protocols). As of August 2020, around 65,877 people were returned from the US to Mexico, despite the COVID-19 pandemic.

During the pandemic, US deportations have continued on the basis of Title 42 Section 265 of the U.S. Federal Code, which provides that the executive can prohibit entrance of people and/or goods based on a determination that this would represent a “serious danger of the introduction” of a disease. The US has used this provision to adopt a policy that for reasons of public health, undocumented persons that cross the U.S. border may be deported from the country without initiating deportation legal proceedings as provided by U.S. immigration law. According to a report published by a group of NGOs, this policy, implemented on 21 March 2020, has been extended indefinitely. From March to end of July 2020, more than 105,000 people were expelled from the United States under this provision. In addition, the report found that since the start of the pandemic only 59 people had been referred to asylum officials to assess non-refoulement claims out of 40,000 expulsions. Of these 59, only two were subsequently allowed to apply for asylum in the U.S.