Ending MPP is Not Enough to Undo Harm and Protect People Seeking Asylum

Wednesday, June 2, 2021


Yesterday, Department of Homeland Security Secretary Mayorkas issued a memo formally rescinding the dangerous and unlawful “Migrant Protection Protocols” policy also known as “Remain in Mexico.” Representatives from the more than 60 organizations that comprise the newly launched campaign seeking to restore and re-envision asylum in the United States, Welcome With Dignity, cautiously welcomed the announcement, calling it a necessary but insufficient first step towards undoing the harm done to the U.S. asylum system during previous administrations. Advocates noted that while Title 42 and numerous other barriers are still in place, families seeking asylum face almost insurmountable obstacles to receive protection. 

“We are gratified that the Biden administration has finally terminated this dangerous policy, which was as illegal as it was cruel,” said Karen Musalo, Director of the Center for Gender & Refugee Studies (CGRS). “CGRS and our litigation partners brought multiple lawsuits challenging MPP, and at every step the federal courts found the policy to be unlawful. We urge the Biden administration to provide redress to all who were deprived of due process and denied protection due to MPP, and to allow those subjected to the policy to pursue their claims in safety in the United States. We also call on the administration to fully end expulsions of asylum seekers under the guise of Title 42 public health authority. This Trump-era policy has exposed asylum seekers to the very same dangers suffered by those trapped in MPP.”

“While we welcome Biden’s long-overdue termination of the Migrant Protection Protocols, the cruelty, harm and unfairness of this Trump policy are still impacting tens of thousands of families and individuals seeking asylum,” stated Ian Philabaum, Director of Border Programs, Innovation Law Lab. “If the administration is truly committed to repairing the harm done by MPP, its plan must take into account all individuals harmed by MPP’s severe due process violations, including those issued in absentia removal orders or final orders of removal, or whose cases were otherwise terminated. ALL people impacted by MPP deserve a fair opportunity to present their asylum claims. The exclusion of thousands of MPP survivors from processing into the United States, together with the ongoing implementation of Title 42 and the new “rocket docket,” call into question the administration’s willingness to respect the rights of people fleeing persecution to seek asylum in the United States.”

“While we welcome the formal announcement to end MPP, the horrors of that Trump administration program will not end until the Biden administration brings to safety those who remain stranded in danger,” said Eleanor Acer, senior director for refugee protection at Human Rights First. “The administration should move ahead to the next phase of its MPP wind-down without further delay and bring into safety asylum seekers who were denied protection or ordered removed under this highly flawed program. The administration must also stop blocking and expelling asylum seekers under the guise of public health, delivering them to the very same dangers and harms faced by asylum seekers subjected to MPP.”

“A compassionate and fair immigration policy should be rooted in welcoming asylum seekers, unaccompanied children, and immigrants,” said Meredith Owen, Director of Policy and Advocacy at Church World Service. “Living out our moral leadership requires an immediate termination of all anti-asylum policies like the immoral and unlawful ‘Title 42’ expulsions, as well as redressing the harm caused by MPP. We also urge the administration to take meaningful steps to swiftly initiate the next steps in its MPP wind down process. We must envision a system that increases equity, particularly for Black asylum seekers and migrants, and upholds the dignity of all people.”

“MPP was a human rights and due process disaster that cruelly and needlessly placed people seeking asylum in harm’s way by returning them to Mexico to wait for their immigration hearings,” said Ursela Ojeda, Policy Advisor for the Women’s Refugee Commission’s Migrant Rights and Justice Program.  “We are glad the Biden administration has formally ended this unlawful policy and urge its complete wind-down, including by permitting everyone subjected to it the opportunity to safely seek protection in the United States. While this decision helps honor the administration’s promise to establish humanity in our immigration system, it will ring hollow unless it is also accompanied by immediate action to end the ongoing and illegal Title 42 expulsions at the U.S.-Mexico border and to stop blocking individuals from seeking protection, including at ports of entry.”

“The official termination of the MPP program is a necessary and welcome repudiation of an Orwellian experiment that continues to subject its victims to harm,” stated Angelica Salas, CHIRLA Executive Director. “Now the Administration must bring justice to all who were enrolled in MPP, so they are provided their right to apply for asylum. This cannot just apply to those who are in the immediate U.S.-Mexico border region, but must apply to those who were dispersed far and wide just as the designers of MPP intended. This will require providing safe passage for these immigrants to the U.S. so they can exercise their rights under U.S. and international law. Anything else will fail to undo the untold harms of MPP.” 

Since its inception, the Welcome With Dignity Campaign has called for the end of MPP. Many of the Campaign’s groups signed-on to a letter that was sent to the Biden administration on May 18th, 2021 calling for the policy’s termination and included recommendations to mediate the harm done its name.

Join the movement and sign our pledge to #WelcomeWithDignity here.