EL PASO, Texas (Border Report) – Migrant advocates in El Paso say they’re deeply disappointed to learn the Biden administration is restarting the “Remain in Mexico” program as early as next week.
They say the program denies asylum-seekers due process and exposes them to kidnapping and violence in Mexico while they wait for a resolution of their claims in U.S. immigration court.
“The purpose of ‘Remain in Mexico’ was always to deter migration through cruelty,” leaders of El Paso’s Hope Border Institute said in a statement Thursday. “No amount of exceptions, additional funding or efforts to mitigate the worst effects of the policy alters the basic cruelty of ‘Remain in Mexico.'”
The Department of Homeland Security on Thursday reached a deal with the Mexican government and issued a memo to its immigration agencies outlining the implementation of the Migrant Protection Protocols (MPP) program, which colloquially is known as “Remain in Mexico.”
It excludes “vulnerable populations” defined as individuals with physical and mental disabilities, pregnant women, the elderly and members of the LGBTQ community. In addition, it will make COVID-19 vaccines and legal rights packets available to asylum-seekers.
But Linda Rivas, executive director of Las Americas Immigrant Advocacy Center, said the exceptions aren’t enough.
“No matter the safeguards, there’s no way to make MPP gentler or kinder. I think MPP is a farce when it comes to due process. I don’t think there’s a way to make it safer,” Rivas said.
Advocates on both sides of the border documented thousands of cases of crimes committed against migrants since the Trump administration came up with “Remain in Mexico” in 2019. A federal court forced the Biden administration to reinstate the program, but advocates say they are disappointed the administration did not put up a better fight in court or find other legal avenues to permanently end the practice.
U.S. Rep. Veronica Escobar, D-Texas, also expressed her disappointment.
“Despite these changes, Remain in Mexico still doesn’t represent our American values and the Biden administration must work aggressively to permanently end it,” Escobar tweeted. “Under Remain in Mexico, thousands of migrants have been raped, kidnapped, tortured and fallen victims to other crimes.”
National news reports say Mexico asked the United States for help in preparing shelters for the arrival of more migrants sent back by U.S. immigration agencies. What that assistance consists of is unclear.
“I suspect a lot of the same people that have been trying to help (migrants) expelled under Title 42 are going to be helping. But, sadly, they are under-resourced, whether that is the Mexican government of civil society,” Rivas said. “These partners are being asked to pick up the slack and it’s absolutely horrifying and detrimental to think that many people are going to be subjected to incredible violence.”
Las Americas and the Hope Border Institute are calling for an alternative to MPP that includes full restoration of due process to asylum-seekers – such as not sending people who are fleeing persecution in one country to yet another dangerous country.
“This moment requires […] a forward-thinking vision to ensure the safety, dignity and human rights of people on the move and credible efforts by the (Biden) administration to address the root causes of migration in Central America,” HBI leaders said.
The groups also decried the apparent continuation of the Title 42 public health policy that allows immigration agents to immediately expel newly arrived migrants to minimize the spread of COVID-19. Combined, MPP and Title 42 will result in many more of migrants seeking the American dream being sent back across the border.