Video: The human cost of 'Remain in Mexico'

Mexico 2019 © Juan Carlos Tomasi

Under the US “Remain in Mexico” policy—officially known as the Migrant Protection Protocols (MPP)—vulnerable people seeking asylum in the US are being sent back to dangerous places in Mexico to wait out their legal proceedings. Far from protecting migrants, this policy sends people who have fled extreme violence and poverty to areas where they are often targeted by criminal gangs. 

The US is sending asylum seekers to notoriously violent cities including Nuevo Laredo, Matamoros, and Reynosa, all in Tamaulipas state. The US State Department has issued a Level 4 “Do Not Travel” warning for Tamaulipas, the same level it gives countries at war like Syria and Afghanistan. Migrants and asylum seekers sent to these places have been victims of kidnapping, torture, and extortion. 

Doctors Without Borders/Médecins Sans Frontières (MSF) teams provide medical and mental health care to migrants and asylum seekers in transit through Mexico. "We see a lot of mental health problems. That is clear," says Sergio Martín, MSF's head of mission in Mexico. "Violence is provoking a lot of mental health problems in people." 

When they set out to seek safety in the US, most people don't know what kind of violence awaits them on the route north, says Martín. “And I’m pretty sure what they cannot imagine when they are leaving [home] is that once they will be on US soil, the US government will send them back again and will expose them again to that violence.”