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August 13, 2021

Letter to President Biden on Expulsion Flights to Southern Mexico & Changes to Asylum Processing

Dear President Biden, Secretary Mayorkas, Ambassador Rice, and Advisor Sullivan: 

We, the 95 undersigned organizations, write to express our profound disappointment at Secretary Mayorkas’s remarksyesterday that outlined plans to increase prosecutions of families and individuals arriving at our border and maximize expulsions. Far from fulfilling its commitment to build a “safe, orderly, and humane immigration system,” your administration continues to pursue cruel, unlawful, and ineffective deterrence-based policies that extend rather than dismantle the previous administration’s approach to migration. Since your administration took office in January 2021, there have been more than 3,000 documented kidnappings, extortions, rapes, and other attacks suffered by families and individuals expelled from the southern border. 

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We are gravely concerned by reports that the U.S. Department of Homeland Security (DHS) plans to send 24 expulsion flights per month of Central American families and adults seeking protection at the U.S.-Mexico border to southern Mexico. In the last week, hundreds of migrants expelled on the first such flights have reportedly been denied access to protection and forced by Mexican authorities into remote areas of Guatemala. DHS has also resumed lateral expulsion flights along the U.S.-Mexico border and expulsion flights to Haiti. These expulsions make a mockery of public health and human rights as they intentionally and systematically return people to harm in violation of U.S. law and international obligations of non-refoulement.

As it is finalizing forthcoming changes to asylum policy, we adamantly urge the administration to abandon consideration or adoption of policies which aim to deter or punish people for crossing the U.S. southern border to seek protection. The administration should also firmly reject any approaches that would return individuals to Mexico to await their U.S. immigration hearings under INA section 235(b)(2)(C). We applaud your decision to end and unwind the Trump administration’s Migrant Protection Protocols (MPP), under which more than 70,000 individuals were sent to cities where they experienced grave human rights violations, including kidnapping, sexual assault, and murder, at the hands of bad actors. Our organizations vehemently oppose any future iteration of a MPP-style policy which would unquestionably put individuals in danger and violate U.S. asylum law.

We further call on the administration to immediately end its use of the public health order known as Title 42 to expel individuals and families back to danger, through expulsions at the border, lateral expulsion flights, and expulsion flights to southern Mexico and Haiti. As public health experts and UNHCR have made clear since the start of the COVID-19 pandemic, it is necessary and possible to protect public health and ensure access to asylum at the same time.

Your administration has the responsibility to restore the U.S. immigration system and uphold U.S. refugee law and treaty obligations. The administration’s recent actions highlighted above are in direct contravention of the goal to repair the broken immigration system you inherited. We urge your administration to immediately change course and reaffirm the U.S.’s commitment to protecting people fleeing persecution and allow families and adults their legal right to seek asylum in the U.S.

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