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October 19, 2021

Legal Service Providers Joint Letter on MPP

Dear President Biden, Vice President Harris, Secretary Mayorkas, and Attorney General Garland:
 
The undersigned 73 legal services providers, law school clinics, and law firms, write to decry the Biden administration’s decision to restart the Remain in Mexico program (formally termed the Migrant Protection Protocols or “MPP”) and make clear, there is no way to make this program safe, humane, or lawful. No measure of involvement from civil societies will mitigate the harms of this horrific, racist, and unlawful program. Nor is it just for this administration to continue to force U.S. lawyers and humanitarian staff to risk their safety due to the failure of this administration to take swift action to uphold U.S. refugee laws and treaties. We refuse to be complicit in a program that facilitates the rape, torture, death, and family separations of people seeking protection by committing to provide legal services.

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Representing people returned under MPP or expelled to Mexico under the illegal Title 42 policy has also endangered attorneys and humanitarian groups, including staff of some of the undersigned organizations. In fact, during the two years it was operated under the Trump administration, U.S. based attorneys were threatened with kidnapping and violence in connection with their representation of people in MPP. Conditions have worsened since the program was first started, rendering it far more dangerous for both the individuals and families attempting to seek protection, as well as any who would seek to help them. Since the Biden administration took office, there have been another 6,356 reports of kidnapping, rape, torture, and other attacks against migrants blocked at ports of entry or expelled to Mexico by the U.S. government.
 
Extensive territorial control by cartels and complicity by Mexican government agents in violent attacks and kidnappings against vulnerable asylum seekers and migrants makes clear that the U.S. government cannot re-implement MPP without subjecting vulnerable individuals to pervasive violence.
We urge the administration to do everything in its power to prevent a return to MPP.

1. Immediately issue a new memorandum that provides a more detailed explanation for the decision to terminate MPP and that resolves any Administrative Procedure Act issues identified by the district court.
2. Immediately inform the Government of Mexico that the United States cannot guarantee increased access to counsel under a reinstated MPP, nor can the United States guarantee that court hearings will generally conclude within 6 months. DHS must not represent to Mexico that nonprofit legal service providers will increase access to counsel under a reinstated MPP.
3. Preserve the MPP wind down and continue processing individuals previously subjected to MPP into the U.S.
4. Take immediate steps to end the cruel and unlawful Title 42 expulsions and immediately restore access to asylum at the border, including at ports of entry.
 
We stand ready to offer legal services to asylum seekers, were your administration to follow U.S. and international law. But there is no protection in the Migrant Protection Protocols.

Download the letter