CGRS Welcomes Remain in Mexico Announcement, Recommends Next Steps on Asylum

Friday, February 12, 2021

This morning the Department of Homeland Security (DHS) announced initial plans to welcome into the United States people with active asylum cases who were forced to remain in Mexico under the Migrant Protection Protocols (MPP). Today’s announcement marks an important step in redressing the profound harm caused by MPP, a disastrous Trump administration policy that trapped over 68,000 asylum seekers in Mexico, where they spent months or even years awaiting their court dates in perilous conditions. The Center for Gender & Refugee Studies (CGRS) is ready to work with the Biden administration to swiftly bring these asylum seekers to safety.

“We are glad to see the Biden administration uphold its promise to end MPP, an unlawful program that exposed asylum seekers to danger and resulted in untold suffering,” CGRS Director Karen Musalo said today. “We also urge the administration to extend relief to the many who are not included in DHS’s phase one plans. Every person harmed by MPP and other cruel Trump policies deserves a fair opportunity to pursue their case free from fear, and with the support of communities around the country that stand ready to welcome asylum seekers.”

On February 19 DHS will commence the first phase in its strategy to restore asylum at the border by processing at designated ports of entry people returned to Mexico under MPP who have active immigration court cases. DHS plans to permit these individuals to reunite with families and communities in the United States and continue their cases in safety. As this process takes shape, we encourage DHS to rely on community-based case management to support asylum seekers preparing for new immigration court dates, and reject harmful and unnecessary measures like ankle monitors. Humanitarian and legal services providers at the border and in destination communities are prepared to support asylum seekers in completing their cases.

While today’s news promises relief for those in MPP with cases still pending, uncertainty remains for all others endangered by Trump-era border policies, whom DHS has instructed to await further information. This includes thousands who were denied protection and ordered deported under MPP, which deprived asylum seekers any semblance of due process. These people should be offered the opportunity to return to the United States and safely pursue their claims. We also urge the administration to develop a welcoming process for those who continue to languish in Mexico on asylum waitlists, which proliferated due to the illegal Trump administration turnback policy. These waitlists include many vulnerable Haitians, Africans, and other refugees who were never placed in MPP.

And as the Biden administration begins to address the urgent needs of people trapped in Mexico, they must also ensure not one more person is returned to danger on their watch. There is no legal, moral, or public health justification for the continued misuse of Title 42 authority to expel people seeing safety at our border. Yet in the administration’s first weeks, DHS has blocked and expelled hundreds of asylum seekers, including families with children, under an unlawful Trump administration policy that was introduced over objections by senior CDC medical experts.

CGRS is counsel in two federal lawsuits challenging the legality of MPP, as well as challenges to Title 42 expulsions.