WASHINGTON, D.C. – Melissa Crow, a senior supervising attorney with the Southern Poverty Law Center (SPLC) released the following statement responding to the Department of Homeland Security (DHS) formally ending the Migrant Protection Protocols (MPP), also known as the Remain in Mexico policy.
“For more than two years, tens of thousands of men, women and children have been forced into precarious, life-threatening situations due to the Remain in Mexico policy. The policy was designed to make life hell for them and to deprive them of access to safety, basic human needs, and legal assistance.
“While it’s commendable that the Biden administration is finally ending Remain in Mexico, everyone affected by this policy MUST have a meaningful opportunity to present their claims for asylum or other relief – including people who received removal orders without even being able to attend their hearings, those whose cases have been terminated, and those denied relief in proceedings devoid of due process.
“Countless people have already been denied a meaningful opportunity to seek protection under this draconian policy. The least we can do now is ensure all who have been harmed have a real chance to seek protection, until we can establish a functional asylum process and reimagine our entire immigration system.”
Background: Legal Challenges to MPP
Two weeks after the government returned the first person under the policy on January 29, 2019, the SPLC, American Civil Liberties Union, and Center for Gender & Refugee Studies filed a lawsuit, Innovation Law Lab v. Wolf, challenging the policy on behalf of affected asylum seekers and six legal service providers.
In April 2019, a federal judge issued a preliminary injunction blocking the policy. In February 2020, the Court of Appeals affirmed the injunction on the basis that the policy was not authorized by the Immigration and Nationality Act. Days later, the U.S. Supreme Court stayed the injunction, allowing the government to continue implementing the Remain in Mexico policy. The injunction remains blocked.
In October 2020, the SPLC, in partnership with Innovation Law Lab, the National Immigration Project of the National Lawyers Guild, and pro bono partner Arnold & Porter LLP, filed an additional lawsuit challenging the policy on behalf of affected asylum seekers and two legal service providers, Jewish Family Service of San Diego and Immigrant Defenders Law Center.
The lawsuit alleges that the Remain in Mexico policy has deprived thousands of asylum seekers of access to legal assistance and other tools needed to meaningfully present their claims. The plaintiffs seek to facilitate the return, following precautions recommended by public health experts, of individual asylum-seeking plaintiffs so they can pursue their claims from within the United States, and to allow legal service organizations to continue their work unencumbered by the challenges of cross-border representation.