The Florence Project welcomes the Biden administration’s announcement of Phase 2 of the rollback of the Migrant Protection Protocols (MPP). We are particularly happy to see that more people who were impacted by this illegal, dangerous policy will have the opportunity to avail themselves of their right to seek asylum from safety within the U.S. In this phase of the rollback, people whose cases were terminated or who were ordered removed after missing court hearings – many after being specifically targeted, threatened, assaulted, or kidnapped in border towns – will have the opportunity to present their case again.
However, many of the concerns we expressed during the first MPP rollback phase remain. Perhaps most frustratingly, the rollback still does not cover all migrants impacted by MPP. Relevantly, it is still unclear what process lies ahead for individuals who fled harm while waiting under MPP in Mexico, and are currently undetected in the United States. Failure to construct a plan for these individuals, incentivizes migrants to make a dangerous return to Mexico, despite the U.S. government’s insistence that people remain where they are.
In a similar vein, for the migrants the Florence Project is working with in Sonora, it is concerning those who meet the eligibility criteria to seek relief in Phase 2 will still only be able to present at designated ports of entry and that no ports have been designated for processing in Arizona. As a result, many people will be forced to travel from places of relative safety through dangerous terrain and regions of Mexico to arrive at the designated ports of entry.
“Unfortunately, the administration has chosen time and again to put people in grave, unnecessary danger by forcing them to travel between ports of entry,” said Border Action Team Managing Attorney Alexandra Miller. “There are organizations on the ground at ports of entry across the border that are ready and able to partner with the government to make sure people can access asylum safely and expeditiously.”
The Florence Project is also incredibly concerned by the logistical burden migrants may face as they work to re-open their cases as required under Phase 2. It is unclear what support will be provided to migrants who have limited literacy or who speak third languages, to ensure they are able to navigate the process to have their cases re-opened so they can be processed to safety at designated ports. We have ongoing concerns about how effectively individuals will be able to navigate this process without the assistance of counsel and also continue to await guidance on a plan for referrals for particularly vulnerable individuals. We applaud the Biden administration for taking this next step to restore access to asylum, but we also implore them to address these concerns as this phase is implemented and to make asylum available to all migrants who were impacted by MPP, including those whose cases were denied.