Oregon Representatives Visit Matamoros Refugee Camp

Yesterday, Reps. Peter DeFazio and Suzanne Bonamici participated in a Congressional delegation trip to Brownsville, TX and Matamoros, Mexico to investigate the Trump Administration’s Remain in Mexico policy and the use of tent court facilities to adjudicate Remain in Mexico asylum cases.  

“I’ve visited refugee camps around the world, and what I saw today is a disgrace to the United States of America and the ideals on which our nation was founded,” said Rep. DeFazio. “The conditions to which we are submitting asylum-seekers—including widespread disease, inadequate medical care, rampant violence and sexual assault, and non-existent infrastructure—is inhumane, plain and simple. This crisis is the direct result of President Trump’s cruel and ineffective Remain in Mexico policy, and Congress must put an end to it as soon as possible.”  

“Walking around this enormous camp just over the bridge from America – the land of opportunity – we saw families and so many children living in squalor trying to make a life for themselves,” said Rep. Bonamici. “We met a family from El Salvador and the mom was trying to explain to us how sick her child is. She took us around to the opening of her tent and let us look inside to see her sick baby on the floor. This is no way to treat families who are coming to the United States because they are seeking a better life. They are escaping violence. They are escaping countries where they don’t feel—and are not—safe. We need to open our arms and open our hearts and let these families make their case here in the United States of America.”  

In January 2019, the Trump administration enacted Migrant Protection Protocols, also known as the Remain in Mexico policy, which allows the Department of Homeland Security to return applicants for admission to the United States to the contiguous country from which they arrived (on land) pending removal proceedings. The MPP sends migrants back to Mexico to await their court proceedings for the duration of their case.  

Since last winter, DHS has sent an estimated 60,000 asylum seekers back into Mexico under the MPP. The Wall Street Journal reported that through the end of November, more than 15,000 of those people have been ordered deported, and 117 have been granted asylum or some other relief.  

The tent encampment in Matamoros is the largest of its kind on the U.S.-Mexico border, with an estimated 3,000 asylum-seekers waiting for their claims to be processed. Reports indicate widespread disease, inadequate infrastructure, and a high incidence of violence and sexual assault.