Trump-era ‘Remain in Mexico’ policy is finally coming to an end

The Biden administration today released companion memos to re-terminate the ill-named Migrant Protection Protocols (MPP), or “Remain in Mexico,” a Trump-era policy that endangers the lives of people seeking asylum.

Human Rights First commended Department of Homeland Security (DHS) Secretary Alejandro Mayorkas for issuing a re-termination memo and welcomes a government filing to vacate a court ruling that had ordered the resumption of the program. We urge immediate further action to ensure this illegal program is not restarted and to end the use of Title 42, another horrific Trump-era policy.  

“This administration is tackling longstanding problems that have plagued our immigration system for decades in order to achieve needed systemic change.  MPP does not help meet this goal,” said Mayorkas. “MPP had endemic flaws, imposed unjustifiable human costs, pulled resources and personnel away from other priority efforts, and did not address the root causes of irregular migration.”

“MPP not only undercuts the administration’s ability to implement critically needed and foundational changes to the immigration system, it fails to provide the fair process and humanitarian protections that individuals deserve under the law,” said Mayorkas. 

Mayorkas conducted an extensive review to assess whether MPP should be maintained, terminated, or modified. He studied court documents, relevant data, internal reviews, and publicly available materials, and met with a broad and diverse array of internal and external stakeholders, including DHS personnel as well as state and local officials and community leaders across the country.

“President Biden and his administration must stop implementing Trump policies that endanger the lives and safety of people seeking refuge in the United States,” said Human Rights First senior director for refugee protection, Eleanor Acer. “‘Remain in Mexico’ and other policies that flout asylum laws and treaties are inhumane and unjust. Every day they are in place, they deliver people seeking protection to places where they are targets of brutal attacks and kidnappings perpetrated by deadly cartels and corrupt Mexican officers.”

Mayorkas concluded that the benefits do not justify the costs, particularly given the way in which MPP detracts from other regional and domestic goals and policy initiatives that better align with this administration’s values. MPP distracts from efforts to achieve regional solutions that address the root causes driving migrants to leave their countries and that tackle this challenge before vulnerable individuals have taken the perilous journey to our border.

As Mayorkas said in the re-termination memo, Human Rights First tracked over 1,500 cases of reported kidnappings and attacks against migrants subjected to MPP.

Human Rights First’s newest report found at least 7,647 reported kidnappings and other violent attacks on people blocked or expelled to Mexico under “Title 42” — another Trump administration policy that uses spurious claims of public health to return asylum seekers to danger — since President Biden took office, demonstrating the need to end that program as well as MPP. 

Instead, immigration and human rights advocates say the administration should restore asylum and uphold refugee law.

In the wake of MPP’s re-termination, Human Rights First urges the administration to take all lawful steps to avoid restarting this illegal and inhumane program.

After a Supreme Court ruling two months ago declined to block a U.S. district court decision calling for MPP to be reinstated, Human Rights First and other organizations repeatedly urged the administration to issue a new memorandum re-terminating MPP in line with requirements of recent court rulings.

The Administration, for example, has designed the Dedicated Docket that enables immigration judges to adjudicate cases within 300 days, and is promulgating a forthcoming Asylum Officer Rule, which will transfer the initial responsibility for adjudicating asylum claims from immigration judges to USCIS asylum officers to produce timely and fair decision-making. These reforms are expected to yield transformative and lasting changes to the asylum system. Once fully implemented, these policies will address migratory flows more effectively than MPP, while holding true to our nation’s values.

The administration remains under a court order requiring it to reimplement MPP in good faith, which it will abide by even as it continues to vigorously contest the ruling.

As part of these efforts, DHS is engaged in ongoing and high-level discussions with Mexican government and has issued contracts to build temporary court facilities in Texas.

MPP cannot be reimplemented, however, unless and until the Government of Mexico makes an independent decision to accept returns under the program.

The termination of MPP will not take effect until the current injunction is lifted.

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