US and Mexico must work together on asylum, say Baker Institute experts

Avery Ruxer Franklin - Rice University

A strong, well-functioning Mexican asylum system is in the best interest of both Mexican and United States governments, but it requires increased coordination from both sides, according to the findings of a new study from Rice University’s Baker Institute for Public Policy and the Refugee Solidarity Network.

“A critical part of the asylum system is the broad network of Mexican civil society organizations (CSOs) that provide a range of services for asylum seekers, including legal assistance and, in some cases, advocacy to the Mexican government for a stronger protection system,” wrote authors Kelsey Norman, fellow for the Middle East and director of the Women’s Rights, Human Rights and Refugees Program at the Baker Institute; Ana Martín Gil, research assistant at the Baker Institute; Zaid Hydari, executive director of the Refugee Solidarity Network; and Kevin Cole, monitoring, evaluation, research and learning manager of the Refugee Solidarity Network.

“However, these organizations are strapped for time and resources,” they continued. “Such limitations make access to their U.S. counterparts and policymakers all the more difficult, despite the U.S. government’s enormous sway over domestic migration issues in Mexico.”

Credit: University.

The study surveyed 30 CSOs working with migrants and asylum seekers in Mexico. More than 90% of those surveyed said more access to U.S. policymakers is needed to effectively advocate for a stronger, rights-based regional response and to make the needs of their beneficiaries and their host communities known to the Mexican government.

Addressing existing barriers in Mexican civil society’s access to U.S. policymakers would empower CSOs to more effectively challenge the “shrinking space for rights-based discourse and advocacy,” the authors argue.

“Additional institutional relationships stand to unlock the expanded potential of Mexico’s national CSOs to engage in advocacy, systematic human rights monitoring, complex strategic litigation, information sharing and cross-border collaboration,” the authors wrote. “Such partnerships can also help support the development of greater connections between Mexican CSOs and U.S. policymakers and funders, enabling a stronger upward flow of on-the-ground observations from a more diverse pool of national NGOs (nongovernmental organizations) to U.S. policymakers.”

“Mexico plays a critical role in migration as an emerging host country with tremendous potential to improve migration and asylum management in line with international standards,” They added. “Implementing improvements in Mexico’s migration and refugee response will lead to greater respect for the human rights of people on the move, but addressing the development of Mexico’s asylum infrastructure will require consultation and partnership with Mexican civil society.”

The policy brief is part of a project examining the role of civil society actors in emerging countries of asylum, with a specific focus on Mexico.

To schedule an interview with Normal or Gil, or for more information, contact Avery Franklin, media relations specialist at Rice, at or 713-348-6327.


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