EL PASO, Texas, June 27 (Reuters) – U.S. faith leaders on Thursday expressed outrage over a Trump administration policy that sends asylum seekers to some of Mexico’s most violent cities, echoing U.S. asylum officers who said the program was contrary to America’s “moral fabric.”
In an open letter to U.S. President Donald Trump and other political leaders, a coalition of evangelical churches said it was “deeply troubled” by a policy it said left children vulnerable to violence and trafficking, as well as by reports of “inhumane” conditions in U.S. federal immigration facilities.
The Catholic diocese of El Paso, Texas separately denounced a critical lack of shelter, food, legal aid and basic services for asylum seekers returned to Mexico under the program and “distressing detention conditions” in the United States before they are returned.
Bishop of El Paso Mark Seitz, will on Thursday accompany migrants being returned to Ciudad Juarez in Mexico under the program known as Remain in Mexico or Migrant Protection Protocols (MPP), the diocese said in a statement.
A photo of drowned migrants and reports of horrendous conditions for detained children have spurred efforts this week to find a compromise over a $4.6 billion emergency funding bill to address worsening humanitarian conditions for migrant children and families crossing the U.S.-Mexico border.
U.S. border patrol agents say they have apprehended 664,000 people along the southern border so far this year, a 144 percent increase from last year, and the highest number in over a decade. Officials say the system is overwhelmed.
The renewed focus on conditions on the border has also galvanized opposition in recent days to the MPP program, which started in January and has now affected more than 15,000 asylum seekers, mainly from El Salvador, Guatemala and Honduras.
Under a deal struck with Mexico on July 7 to stave off tariffs threatened by Trump, the program is being expanded to more cities and applied to new nationalities including Cubans.
In its letter, the Evangelical Immigration Table, a coalition including nine major U.S. church groups, said the policy restricts access to U.S. legal counsel and greatly reduces the possibility that migrant families “will be able to receive a truly just and fair chance at receiving asylum.”