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The United Nations refugee agency uses the card shown in the video to give humanitarian cash assistance to certain asylum seekers in Mexico, including children at risk of abuse and exploitation, single mothers, gender-violence survivors and people with medical needs.
To get this cash assistance, people must express their will to remain in Mexico and register for it. According to the United Nations High Commissioner for Refugees, less than 10% of people who seek asylum in Mexico receive this assistance.
Based on the refugee agency’s monitoring, most people use this help to pay rent or buy food.
Social media users are claiming that the United Nations is funding military service members to cross the U.S. border. Their proof: a video of a man showing a debit card, complaining that the U.N. is late to pay him.
In an interview on the video, the man spoke in Spanish, saying his debit card is empty because "they haven’t deposited anything." He showed the card, which had a logo of the United Nations High Commissioner for Refugees.
(Screenshots from Instagram)
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The video was uploaded on X on Jan. 14, 2022, by Todd Bensman, senior national security fellow of the Center for Immigration Studies, a think tank that favors stricter immigration laws.
Bensman featured the same man in a January 2022 report, and identified him as Luis Ponce from Haiti. Bensman wrote that Ponce was waiting outside of a U.N. office in Tapachula, Mexico, to complain to the U.N. because the agency had not recharged his debit card.
Bensman wrote that this was part of the U.N.’s "cash-based interventions." According to the U.N. refugee agency, cash-based interventions refer to "all interventions in which cash or vouchers for goods or services are provided to refugees and other persons of concern on an individual or community basis."
The U.N. refugee agency ensures that the person stays in the asylum process and that the person intends to stay in Mexico before approving humanitarian cash assistance.
Pamela Luna, a spokesperson for the U.N. refugee agency’s Mexico branch, told PolitiFact that this cash assistance program is meant for the "most vulnerable asylum seekers." To obtain this aid, she said, asylum seekers must claim asylum in Mexico, express their will to remain in Mexico and register with the agency.
The registration process identifies asylum seekers in Mexico, including children at risk of harm including abuse and exploitation, single mothers, gender-violence survivors and people with medical needs. (PolitiFact couldn’t find more information about Ponce.) The agency then refers these people to assistance systems. In the most vulnerable cases, the U.N. agency provides cash aid.
Luna said that of the people who seek asylum in Mexico, less than 10% receive this cash assistance. She added that most people use this aid to pay rent and buy food.
The cash assistance comes with a time limit, usually three to four months. After that, the aid expires. It doesn’t include cash or vouchers given to governments or other state actors, or payments to humanitarian workers or service providers, the U.N. agency said.
The U.N. refugee agency issues cash assistance to help asylum seekers, not to pay military service members to enter the U.S. We rate that claim False.
PolitiFact reporter Maria Briceño contributed to this report.
Center for Immigration Studies YouTube video, U.N. provides cash assistance to U.S.-bound migrants in Mexico, Jan. 31, 2022
X post by Todd Bensman, Jan. 14, 2022
UNHCR, Cash-based interventions, accessed Oct. 10. 2023
UNHCR, Cash Assistance and Protection: Why, What and How?, Sept. 20, 2021
UNHCR, Policy on Cash-Based Interventions, accessed Oct. 10, 2023
UNHCR, Children at risk, accessed Oct. 13, 2023
Statement from Pamela Luna, communications associate for UNHCR Mexico, Oct. 10, 2023
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