Photo Essay: The Impact of the “Remain in Mexico” Policy in Matamoros

By Lauren Murphy, Digital Producer, Amnesty International USA

Under a new Trump administration program known as “Remain in Mexico”, asylum-seekers are being forcibly returned to Mexico to wait out their cases. In many cases, they are being turned back to the Tamaulipas state, which the state department has designated as a Level 4: Do Not Travel. The United States government does not even permit its own employees to travel here beyond a certain radius. Yet, this is where they send vulnerable asylum-seekers, many of whom are children, back to while they wait.

Amnesty International sent a global delegation to witness the devastating impact the policy has had in Matamoros, Mexico. Asylum-seekers must remain close to the border to be nearby for their hearing dates, which take place in the United States. As soon we stepped off the bridge, just a few feet away we could see hundreds of tents.

Here is what we witnessed.

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A young boy watches the line of cars crossing into the United States from Matamoros, Mexico. Just steps from the border, asylum-seekers take shelter in tents.
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A child’s tent sits in the middle of the sprawling encampment just steps from the border.
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A sign reads “have a good trip” next to the camp. While asylum-seekers wait here, they are routinely kidnapped and extorted by cartels operating in the camp.
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Left: A sign reads warning “DANGER” next to the Rio Grande. Right: The view from the pedestrian crossway into Matamoros, Mexico. Asylum Seekers told Amnesty International they have seen bodies wash ashore, either murdered by cartels or drowned after trying to bathe.
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Young girls walk barefoot next to the lined up cars crossing into the United States. Asylum-seekers were seen begging for money from the crossing cars.
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Asylum-seekers use logs and rocks to tie down their camps due to the weather conditions.
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Clothes and socks can be seen hanging all along the encampment.
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Left: A young girl sits next to the river bank. Right: A Homeland Security bag seen on the ground in the encampment. Asylum-seekers are given these to hold their belongings.
Toddlers play in the encampment. Amnesty International was told children are frequently trafficked from the camp.
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Riot gear is seen on the US side of the pedestrian border crossing while Customs and Border Protection stops a family from crossing.

Photos taken in October 2019. © Lauren Murphy/Amnesty International

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