Amnesty International has found since 2018 that the United States (US) government has executed an unlawful and politically motivated campaign of intimidation, threats, harassment, and criminal investigations against people who defend the human rights of migrants, refugees and asylum seekers (“migrant human rights defenders”) on the US–Mexico border.
A humanitarian crisis has erupted on the US–Mexico border over the last year, due to unlawful US asylum policies. US authorities have turned away thousands of people requesting asylum at the border, and are forcibly returning thousands more asylum seekers to Mexico even after they request protection, thereby denying them due process in their asylum claims. Yet neither the US nor the Mexican government has provided adequate shelter, food, services, or legal assistance to those asylum seekers now stranded in the violent and dangerous border region of northern Mexico. As a result, volunteers with non-governmental organizations (NGOs) and communities of faith in both countries have had to fill those gaps and protect the rights of migrants and asylum seekers being forsaken by authorities – while simultaneously shielding themselves from government abuses.
Among the human rights defenders targeted by US authorities – and interviewed by Amnesty International about their experiences – are activists, lawyers, journalists, and humanitarian volunteers, including a clergy member. The US Department of Homeland Security (DHS) and the US Department of Justice (DOJ) have increasingly misused and leveraged the criminal justice system to deter and punish those individuals for challenging – or even simply documenting – the systematic human rights violations by US authorities against migrants and asylum seekers.