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September 09, 2021

Any Version of “Remain in Mexico” Policy Would Be Unlawful, Inhumane, and Deadly

On August 24, 2021, the U.S. Supreme Court denied a request to stay a federal court ruling that orders the U.S government to re-implement the Trump administration’s Remain in Mexico program (officially designated the “Migrant Protection Protocols,” or “MPP”). This deadly policy effectively delivers asylum seekers into the hands of cartels and corrupt Mexican government agents who kidnap, rape, torture, traffic, and extort them and their family members. The policy requires asylum seekers to wait in Mexican border cities while their U.S. immigration court cases are pending, rather than processing them into the United States to seek asylum while living safely with family members or friends. MPP was one of the Trump administration’s numerous policies designed to erode the U.S. asylum system and deter refugees from requesting protection by subjecting them to unimaginable terrors. It fueled chaos, disorder, and suffering.

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During the two years that the Trump administration implemented MPP, Human Rights First tracked at least 1,544 publicly reported cases of violent attacks against people returned to Mexico under the program and forced to wait in danger for their U.S. immigration court proceedings. Since President Biden took office, Human Rights First has tracked another 6,356 additional reports of kidnapping, rape, human trafficking, torture, and other violent attacks against migrants expelled or blocked in Mexico, forced to endure the same dangers as individuals forcibly returned to Mexico under MPP.

Despite the action President Biden took to end MPP starting in February 2021, his administration has now confirmed that it plans to re-implement MPP reportedly instituting a “gentler” version of MPP. As this factsheet explains, that is impossible. No version of MPP can ever be legal, safe, or humane. In September 2021, dozens of members of Congress wrote in a letter to the administration that “[i]t is abundantly clear that the United States cannot safely reinstate MPP and that any attempt to return people seeking safety to harm in Mexico will violate U.S. and international legal obligations to refugees." The president of the union representing U.S. asylum officers told CBS News that "[t]he reinstatement of MPP will place thousands of asylum seekers in harm's way and deny them the right to a fair hearing of their claims.”

The Biden administration rightly ended this cruel and illegal program and should not renege on its commitment. Instead, the administration should:

  • Take all necessary legal steps to immediately issue a new policy memo that provides a fuller explanation for the decision to terminate MPP and that resolves any Administrative Procedure Act issues identified by the district court in its ruling;
  • Take all lawful and necessary steps to preserve the MPP wind down and continue processing individuals previously subjected to MPP into the United States; and
  • End the cruel and unlawful Title 42 policy, which subjects asylum seekers and migrants to the same brutal harms as MPP, and immediately restore access to asylum at the border, including at ports of entry.

Download the factsheet