The Biden administration has formally ended the previous administration’s anti-asylum Migrant Protection Protocols (MPP) policy, which forced tens of thousands of asylum-seekers and their families to wait for their U.S. immigration court dates in dangerous regions of Mexico for as long as two years, the Associated Press (AP) reports.
President Joe Biden had stopped new enrollees in the “Remain in Mexico” program after taking office while his administration reviewed the policy. In a new announcement, Department of Homeland Security (DHS) Secretary Alejandro Mayorkas said he would be terminating the policy, writing in a memo that keeping it in place “would not be consistent with this administration’s vision and values and would be a poor use of the department’s resources.”
“This is a huge victory,” said American Civil Liberties Union (ACLU) attorney Judy Rabinovitz. The organization was among the numerous groups that sued the previous administration over the inhumane policy. “The forced return policy was cruel, depraved, and illegal, and we are glad that it has finally been rescinded,” Rabinovitz said.
In its statement, the Southern Poverty Law Center (SPLC) praised the administration while also calling on it to give a second chance to asylum-seekers who were unjustly blocked from seeking protections. The Washington Post reported in April that of the nearly 70,000 Remain in Mexico cases, 28,000 were closed because an asylum-seeker never made it to court. But many didn’t show because they were violently targeted for kidnapping and other violence. Without action from the administration, asylum-seekers who suffered trauma on top of trauma are barred from seeking any further relief here for years to come.
“While it’s commendable that the Biden administration is finally ending Remain in Mexico, everyone affected by this policy must have a meaningful opportunity to present their claims for asylum or other relief—including people who received removal orders without even being able to attend their hearings, those whose cases have been terminated, and those denied relief in proceedings devoid of due process,” senior supervising attorney Melissa Crow said.
“Countless people have already been denied a meaningful opportunity to seek protection under this draconian policy,” Crow continued in the statement. “The least we can do now is ensure all who have been harmed have a real chance to seek protection, until we can establish a functional asylum process and reimagine our entire immigration system.”
In report released shortly before the two-year anniversary of the implementation of Remain in Mexico this past January, a joint investigation by Human Rights Watch, Stanford University’s Human Rights in Trauma Mental Health Program, and Willamette University’s Child and Family Advocacy Clinic described children and adults “being sexually assaulted, abducted for ransom, extorted, robbed at gunpoint, and subjected to other crimes” under the policy. These families were subjected to this horrific violence as the previous administration lied, publicly claiming that the policy kept asylum-seekers safe. Privately, the administration admitted asylum-seekers were in danger.
In applauding the termination of the Remain in Mexico policy, advocates also urged the Biden administration to end another anti-asylum policy by the previous administration, which uses the novel coronavirus pandemic as an excuse to quickly deport most asylum-seekers. While the Biden administration has eased some of the Stephen Miller-pushed Title 42, it has continued to keep the policy in place. In a statement late last month, the United Nations (UN) High Commissioner for Refugees issued a statement similarly calling on the Biden administration to end Title 42.
“I appeal to the government of the United States to swiftly lift the public health-related asylum restrictions that remain in effect at the border and to restore access to asylum for the people whose lives depend on it, in line with international legal and human rights obligations,” UN commissioner Filippo Grandi said in the statement.