Three asylum seekers were abducted in April while under the program known as the Migrant Protection Protocols (MPP). This U.S. program places migrants in the custody of Mexican officials while they await their hearing in U.S. immigration court. The kidnapping occurred while the migrants were being picked up by Mexican officials in the city of Nuevo Laredo. This is the first known kidnapping under the revised MPP.
Last year, a federal judge in Texas ruled that the Biden administration violated procedural laws when it terminated the MPP, which is why the program was reinstated. The Nuevo Laredo Civil Defense Authority says the kidnapping did not happen and that the three migrants jumped out of a car to avoid quarantine after testing positive for Covid-19. We provide an update in this article.
Migrant protection protocols: Is this decision legal?
Migrant Protection Protocols (MPP), better known as “stay in Mexico,” is designed to force asylum seekers in the United States to wait in Mexico while their cases are processed on U.S. soil. This policy was proposed by the Trump administration. When it went into effect, human rights groups quickly condemned the former president and pressured President Joe Biden to rescind the policy, which he finally completed in February.
The administration is under pressure to update the policy following an Aug. 13 ruling by a federal court in Texas. PPM’s legality was prompted by the Supreme Court’s Aug. 24 decision, in which the nation’s highest governing body refused to block the Texas decision.
What are the circumstances of the kidnapping of the 3 migrants at the Mexican-American border?
In recounting the facts, Raul, one of the kidnapped migrants, asked not to reveal his last name to avoid reprisals from his captors. But this was not the case.
Raul crossed the Rio Grande into Texas on April 10 after flying from Peru to Mexico. Ten days later, DHS agents brought him back to Nuevo Laredo, a notoriously dangerous town where kidnappings are expected, on the Mexican side of the river across from Laredo, Texas.
Officials from the Nuevo Laredo Municipal Emergency Civil Defense Department then took Raul and two other migrants to a local shelter. But the kidnappers stopped the truck, took the migrants captive, and demanded a ransom from their family and friends in the United States.
Raul told his story to a Mexican lawyer in a five-page statement signed on May 5 under penalty of perjury. He told the same story to IOM staff and a psychologist at the Monterey immigrant shelter.
The ransom demanded by the kidnappers
Raul arrived in New Laredo on April 20 and was notified to appear in court in Laredo, Texas, next month.
Under the revised MPP, immigrants in the program typically traveled by bus south to the safer city of Monterey by IOM. But Raul and two other returning asylum seekers tested positive for COVID-19 and under protocols designed to prevent the spread of COVID-19, they were quarantined in Nuevo Laredo.
According to Raul’s statements, the assailants took the three men to a two-story house where they were captured with about 20 other migrants.
He soon realized that the kidnappers’ victims were immigrants who had been deported or expelled to Mexico. Raul said, quote, “They knew we had family in the United States,” and he added that the kidnappers forced him and others to provide the phone numbers of their contacts. He said they insulted him and punched him in the stomach when he said he only had one contact.
After four days of “suffering” and a ransom of $6,000, half of what the kidnappers had originally demanded, the kidnappers took him to a bus stop and told him to leave town.
The Mexican authorities’ denial of the kidnapping
The spokesman for the U.S. Department of Homeland Security Graber Ladek confirmed the kidnapping. He said: “We are aware of this incident and are very concerned” adding that she is in contact with local and national authorities in Mexico “to prevent these things from happening again”.
Mexico’s Federal Institute of Migration declined to comment on Reuters’ questions about the kidnapping that took place.
The Civil Defense Agency of Nuevo Laredo denied that there was a kidnapping, saying instead that the three immigrants jumped out of their car to avoid quarantine after testing positive for COVID-19. Other city officials declined to comment on the facts.
Increased border security measures
U.S. President Joe Biden ended the MPP shortly after taking office last year as part of a campaign to reverse the radical immigration policies of his Republican predecessor, Donald Trump. But the program was forcibly restored by a court order in December.
In restoring the program, the Biden administration promised new measures that would strengthen protections for immigrants.
In a statement to Reuters, a Department of Homeland Security spokesperson said the abductions highlight “endemic deficiencies” within the MPP. The Biden administration cited risks, including immigrant kidnapping, in its decision to end the Trump-era plan.
After the incident, state police began escorting some MPP migrants to Nuevo Laredo in late April, IOM officials said. The Tamaulipas state security department said its police would coordinate with federal immigration authorities to escort migrants in the MPP with other migrants.
Mexico’s National Human Rights Commission, a government watchdog, said in a report last year that kidnapping was one of the most common crimes against migrants in the original MPP program, also known as “Stay in Mexico.”
The revamped MPP is designed to be different. The agreement released by the Department of Homeland Security in December promises “safe transportation to and from ports of entry to shelters in Mexico.”
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