As an organization that provides legal services on both sides of the U.S.-Mexico border, we saw firsthand the disastrous results of the Trump administration’s border policies, among the most egregious of which was the Migrant Protection Protocols (MPP). The Biden administration has worked to unwind this cruel policy. But last night, the Supreme Court allowed a judicial order to force the administration to continue the unlawful program.
Also known as “Remain in Mexico,” MPP launched in 2019, and since then it has forced asylum seekers to stay in Mexico for the duration of their U.S. asylum proceedings. This policy exposed vulnerable, displaced migrants to kidnappings, assaults, sexual violence, and homelessness. Instead of throwing life preservers to drowning people – which is what domestic and international law demand that the U.S. do – Remain in Mexico created a humanitarian crisis at the U.S.-Mexico border.
Every individual fleeing persecution abroad has a legal right to seek asylum in the United States. People articulating a fear of return to their home country deserve to await a humanitarian relief decision in safety, in the care of loved ones or sponsors inside the U.S. Instead, the promise of a full and fair hearing on their asylum claims has devolved into chaos and disorganization through an illegal and dangerous scheme to deter people from seeking protection in the U.S.
The Biden Administration was in the process of ending this horrific policy – as it should and must. Tuesday’s stunning decision by the Supreme Court is yet another assault on the rights and dignity of people seeking asylum. We do not know of any other decision in the history of the country in which the Supreme Court ordered a President to restart a program on foreign soil that he did not deem financially necessary or legally sound. The Supreme Court refuses to disclose its reasoning. The government’s brief noted that whenever the Trump administration wanted the Supreme Court to issue a stay against a district court decision striking down its anti-asylum policies, the Supreme Court obliged. But here, it failed to act to protect asylum seekers.
The Biden administration must redouble its efforts to fully terminate the unlawful and harmful Remain in Mexico policy and restore access to asylum. We call upon the Biden administration to commit to:
- Exempt those with urgent humanitarian needs from Remain in Mexico and Title 42;
- Broadly exercise its existing parole authority to ensure that all asylum seekers have access to a full and fair hearing and the opportunity to prepare for their cases from a place of safety and security within the United States;
- Continue the process for admitting to the U.S. and reopening proceedings where necessary for people who were subject to the previous iteration of Remain in Mexico;
- End Remain in Mexico once and for all and ensure that no future iteration of the program returns.
The previous administration spent four years tearing apart the fabric of our asylum and protection systems. We must fight to create a fair, efficient, and equitable system to allow asylum seekers to avail themselves of protection under U.S. law.
Once viewed as a global leader on human rights, the U.S. is now identified by international monitors as a perpetrator of serious human rights violations against migrants due to its heinous border policies.
Over the past two years, the Florence Project has met with thousands of families and individuals, including particularly vulnerable populations such as pregnant women, children, Black, Indigenous, and LGBTQ+ people fleeing persecution, who were forced to remain trapped in abysmal conditions without food, shelter, or medical care for months, if not years, while seeking humanitarian relief through this program. Beyond the immediate harm to asylum seekers, Remain in Mexico also worsened the backlog of cases in immigration courts and did not provide any means of adequate due process; even immigration judges publicly recognized that Remain in Mexico was a disaster.
The Supreme Court’s decision will not shake the Florence Project’s resolve to advocate for the rights and dignity of asylum seekers. With our partners on the ground, we will continue fighting, inspired by the strength and resilience of our clients.