“As border advocates, legal service providers, and witnesses to the horrific harms of deterrence-based asylum policy, we want to express our anger and disappointment with the administration’s decision to break a promise and to restart MPP,” the statement said. Like previously noted, the Biden administration requires Mexico’s cooperation in order to restart Remain in Mexico, which in turn has asked the U.S. to address issues within the policy, including the agonizingly lengthy periods of time asylum-seekers were forced to wait for their U.S. immigration court dates. But, “[t]here is no improved version of MPP,” the groups said.
In urging the Biden administration back in Sept. to reissue a memo terminating the policy, El Paso Rep. Veronica Escobar and New Jersey Sen. Robert Menendez wrote, “The horrors of MPP are well-documented. During its implementation from January 2019 to early 2021, non-profit groups tracked over 1,500 public reports of rape, kidnapping, torture, trafficking, and other crimes carried out against asylum seekers and migrants sent back to Mexico under the policy.” Human rights advocates have since tracked thousands more violent incidents against asylum-seekers and other migrants deported since January alone.
The legislators said it’s “abundantly clear that the United States cannot safely reinstate MPP and that any attempt to return people seeking safety to harm in Mexico will violate U.S. and international legal obligations to refugees.”
“We will not engage with the administration around conversations on how to make MPP a palatable form of inhumanity,” the Welcome With Dignity campaign said. “We demand that you issue a new termination memo and develop a concrete plan that ends MPP and starts moving us toward a fair, just, and welcoming system. We as border advocates, legal service providers, and national allies will not engage further in this conversation until the administration is ready to deliver on their day one campaign promise: do everything in your power to end MPP, issue a new termination memo and start moving us towards a system grounded in empathy, dignity, and respect.”
“Representing all five border welcoming regions and the suffering migrants who should be at this table, we now ask all our partners and colleagues to stand in solidarity with those we serve by respectfully walking out of this meeting,” the statement concluded. It said that members had changed their Zoom backgrounds to black squares reading, “End MPP: Restore Asylum Now” and “Protect Black Immigrants.”
Candidate Biden promised to end the Remain in Mexico policy and did so back in June. It was a victory for asylum-seekers, their advocates, and U.S. asylum law. But in August, a federal judge appointed by the previous administration ruled the Biden administration unlawfully ended the policy. Matthew Kacsmaryk’s ruling, “it should be noted, was dead wrong,” wrote legal expert Ian Millhiser. An appeals court left the ruling in place. Then, later that month, the Supreme Court’s right-wing justices allowed the policy’s reinstatement to continue, in a one-page, unsigned ruling.
The Biden administration said following the Supreme Court’s decision that it would again try to end the policy, but nothing has been issued yet. “The Biden administration has announced several significant steps to implement Remain in Mexico in compliance with the District Court’s order, yet the Biden administration has failed to issue a new memo to end this unlawful Trump policy to prevent any version of it from harming even one more person,” National Immigration Law Center Executive Director Marielena Hincapié said earlier last week.
Advocates who walked out of the call with the Biden administration on Saturday said they did so because they have “sadly reached a turning point,” the statement said. “Border groups, including RAICES attorneys, just walked out of a meeting with the Biden administration in protest of their recent plans to resume the inhumane #MPP program,” the organization said in a tweet Saturday. “We will not work with the administration to resume this cruelty against migrants.” Immigrant Defenders Law Center Director Lindsay Toczylowski tweeted, “[W]e will not engage on how to make the inhumane humane.”