Introduced by the Trump administration, Migrant Protection Protocols (MPP) that are used by U.S. officials to send asylum seekers back to Mexico have been fueling the number of kidnappings in the country.
The Trump administration started enforcing MPP beginning in January. According to the Department of Homeland Security, MPP is a program under which people attempting to enter the U.S. illegally may be returned to Mexico and wait there until their immigration proceedings have taken place. Under this plan, Mexico is also responsible for providing migrants waiting there with all necessary accommodations.
Ever since the Trump administration began enforcing these protocols, stories of kidnappings have become the norm.
Taylor Levy, a private immigration attorney in El Paso, Texas told The Globe Post there are generally two types of kidnappings that are routinely taking place in Mexican towns along the border – “bodega,” or warehouse, kidnappings and opportunistic kidnappings.
“Bodega” kidnappings are large-scale kidnappings that are done by cartels. They require a lot of overheard, as costs can include paying for a warehouse to hold migrants and paying off authorities. Cartels target Central Americans more because they seem to be more pliable or easier to manage culturally.
“Extortions start at $10,000 but are then willing to negotiate down,” Levy said.
Furthermore, rampant sexual assault, beatings, and photos of the victims being tortured sent to family members are ways of making sure the gangs are paid for people’s release. Levy noted that in these types of kidnappings, ransoms are a little higher for Venezuelans.
The second type of kidnappings widespread in the area are opportunistic kidnappings. They are usually not carried out by cartels but by individuals who are more likely to target Cubans because Cubans are seen as being more wealthy.
“These kidnappers tend to ask family members of the hostage for a wire of $500 to $1,000 in exchange for their release,” Levy said.
The Safe Third Country Agreement & MPP (Migrant Protection Protocols) are a sham and just 2 components in the well oiled machine overtly trying to end asylum in this country.
We thank these efforts by Congress. #SaveAsylum https://t.co/iWEGinleAX
— RAICES (@RAICESTEXAS) November 27, 2019
Even as these crimes continue to take place on a regular basis, the Trump administration is expanding the purview of the MMP, which will now affect the Tucson region, according to the U.S. Department of Homeland Security. The Washington Post has reported that the DHS is preparing to bus migrants trying to enter the U.S. from Arizona to Texas, so that they can drop them off in Mexico while they await their immigration proceedings.
Under the MPP, Mexico is responsible for ensuring that migrants are taken care while they await their immigration hearings in El Paso or other American border cities. However, Mexican authorities are sometimes complicit in the kidnapping and extortion operations run by the cartels, according to Kennji Kizuka, a senior researcher in refugee protections at Human Rights First.
“Officials appear powerless to intervene because the cartels are heavily armed and can respond violently to incursions on their authority… because corruption is so widespread in the police force, many asylum seekers and migrants fear even reporting crimes against them,” he told The Globe Post.
Kizuka noted that Central Americans, Venezuelans and Cubans are targeted specifically because of their nationality.
“Many Cubans in particular have said that when they were attacked they were called ‘pinche Cubanos’ or ‘[expletive] Cubans’,” he said, adding that a reason why this is taking place may be due to strong anti-migrant sentiments in Mexico, currently directed at the migrant populations trying to cross through Mexican land.
When asked what could be done to protect migrants forced to wait in Mexico to await their immigration hearings, both Taylor and Kizuka suggested that the MPP program needs to end.
Taylor explained that people often are returned at the same times and to the same places in Mexican border towns which make them very easy targets. She further said that people are sometimes kidnapped within five, ten, 15 minutes upon being dropped off in Mexico, and that it makes her job as an immigration attorney very difficult because her clients are always worried about whether or not they will die.
“The best way to protect asylum seekers and migrants would be to end MPP and not return them to Mexico. Given the fact that Mexico cannot protect its own citizens from rising cartel violence, it’s very unlikely the Mexican government is capable of protecting MPP returnees,” Kizuka concluded.