June 07, 2022

Reps. Castro, Grijalva, Garcia Lead Call for Biden Administration to Address Attacks on Free Press and Surging Violence in Mexico

WASHINGTON – This week, Reps. Joaquin Castro (TX-20), Raúl M. Grijalva (AZ-03), and Jesús “Chuy” García (IL-04) led two letters urging the State Department, the Justice Department, and the U.S. Agency for International Development to work with the Mexican government to address rising levels of violence in Mexico. In the letters, lawmakers express serious concern about recent spikes in forced disappearances and escalating attacks against the Mexican free press.

“The state of civil rights and security in Mexico have profound consequences for communities on both sides of the border,” said Rep. Castro. “As the Summit of the Americas continues throughout the week, I urge the Biden administration to work with our Mexican partners to bring justice to the families of the disappeared and ensure that the Mexican press can operate freely and without fear.”

"Strengthening rule of law, protecting human rights, and improving citizen security are fundamental to the U.S.-Mexico relationship,” said Rep. Grijalva. “The upsurge in violence against the free press, including the killing of eleven journalists in 2022 alone and the continued disappearance of some of Mexico’s most vulnerable populations are not only a cause for concern, but a call for immediate action. The U.S must take steps to evaluate and address these full-scale crises with our Mexican counterparts and help provide justice to impacted communities."

“Like so many of my constituents I have family and friends in Mexico, so the rise in violence against journalists and human rights defenders there hits close to home,” said Rep. García. “While our two countries have an important and close partnership, our government must hold Mexico accountable for its failure to address this violence and ensure that U.S. funding and participation strengthen human rights instead of propping up failed strategies.”

Despite the rollout of new measures to protect human rights in Mexico, the country has reached grim new violence milestones in recent years. In May 2022, Mexico officially registered more than 100,000 people as missing or disappeared, including more than 20,000 names added in the past two years alone. The ranks of the disappeared include a rising number of women, children, and adolescents. Less than six percent of cases have been brought to court, raising concerns about the Mexican government’s commitment to prosecuting perpetrators.

In their letter on these disappearances, lawmakers urge the Biden administration to “deepen our work with Mexico to support both the search for the disappeared and access to justice for these crimes.”

Additional signers on this letter include Representatives: Alan Lowenthal (CA-47), Linda T. Sánchez (CA-38), Ilhan Omar (MN-05), Eleanor Holmes Norton (D-DC), James P. McGovern (MA-02), Sara Jacobs (CA-53), Dina Titus (NV-01), Jared Huffman (CA-02), Mark Pocan (WI-02), Anna G. Eshoo (CA-18), Jimmy Gomez (CA-34), Juan Vargas (CA-51), Andy Levin (MI-09), and Albio Sires (NJ-08). For the full letter, click here.

Despite the essential role of the Mexican press in reporting on disappearances, organized crime, and corruption, the government of President Andrés Manuel López Obrador has repeatedly undermined protections for the media. In October 2020, the Mexican Congress eliminated independent funding for the Federal Mechanism for the Protection of Human Rights Defenders and Journalists, which supports security measures for at-risk journalists. President López Obrador himself has frequently denigrated and intimidated independent journalists, further undermining their precarious position.

In their letter on violence against journalists, lawmakers write: “We also encourage the State Department and USAID to prioritize the protection of free media and the investigation of homicides against journalists in our development assistance to the Mexican government. We also request that these agencies take steps to evaluate the deficiencies associated with the Protection Mechanism, encourage legislators and Administration officials who are revising the mechanism to incorporate lessons from past initiatives, and deepen interagency and interstate cooperation on this critical issue.

Additional signers on this letter include Representatives: Veronica Escobar (TX-16), Ilhan Omar (MN-05), Eleanor Holmes Norton (D-DC), Jan Schakowsky (IL-09), Jamie Raskin (MD-08), Sara Jacobs (CA-53), Mark Pocan (WI-02), Jimmy Gomez (CA-34), Juan Vargas (CA-51), Andy Levin (MI-09), Alan Lowenthal (CA-47), and James P. McGovern (MA-02). For the full letter, click here.