Three years ago, the Trump administration began the Migrant Protection Protocols, also known as MPP or “Remain in Mexico.” Through this cruel program, U.S. government officials force people seeking refuge at the border to wait in dangerous conditions in Mexico while their case proceeds in court in the United States. These asylum seekers are subjected to serious harm, including kidnapping, assault, and family separation. The Biden administration initially terminated MPP, then subsequently reinstated and expanded the deadly program, all but ensuring the continuation of systemic harms and violence.
Under the Trump Administration, at least 70,000 individuals were returned to Mexico to await court hearings. The vast majority of people in MPP had no attorney while facing nightmarish proceedings. Ultimately, asylum was granted to only one percent of those seeking safety. When Biden took office, the administration suspended and dismantled MPP. However, a federal judge ordered the Biden administration to “enforce and implement MPP in good faith until such a time as it has been lawfully rescinded in compliance with the APA [Administrative Procedure Act].” Though the Biden administration issued a new termination memorandum two months later based on the extensive record of atrocities associated with MPP, their effort was belated and ultimately unsuccessful. The administration went on to not only reinstate but expand MPP, with Haitians and other Caribbean nationals now forced into these dangerous conditions.
Many organizations and advocates – including NIJC – have pushed back against the Biden administration, arguing that the administration did not fully explore the many legal options available before reinstating the program. Furthermore, the administration has not put sufficient or meaningful protections in place for people in the program. The most recent data issued by the government shows that fewer than 15 percent of the individuals enrolled in MPP who expressed fear of returning to Mexico were removed from the program. NIJC gained a glimpse into the process when providing counsel to aylum seekers. The process we observed underscored there is no such thing as meaningful access to counsel or humane treatment in any version of the MPP program. To make matters worse, the administration continues to expel people en masse at the border via Title 42, an obscure quarantine law weaponized by Stephen Miller to torpedo the U.S. asylum system.
Continuing to return people to Mexico, where they face danger at the hands of state actors, violates the U.S. government’s international and domestic human rights obligations. The Biden administration must end both MPP and Title 42 and redirect its energy toward restoring asylum processing at U.S. ports of entry.