In a letter led by El Paso Rep. Veronica Escobar and New Jersey Sen. Robert Menendez, legislators told the Biden administration that it “can and should re-terminate MPP with a fuller explanation in order to address any perceived procedural defect of the termination,” noting “[t]he court orders leave ample room for your administration to ensure MPP never again puts another person in harm’s way.”
“In addition to subjecting individuals to life-threatening dangers under MPP,” the legislator said, “the program violated the due process rights of asylum seekers and migrants by stranding them in Mexico without access to legal counsel, forcing them to risk their lives to attend their court hearings—there have been numerous reports of asylum seekers in MPP being kidnapped while attempting to reach immigration court—and requiring many to prepare their cases while facing unrelenting fear and insecurity.”
Earlier this year, the Washington Post reported that Honduran asylum-seeker Carolina had been among the asylum-seekers forced to wait in Mexico for her U.S. immigration court date. But when she then missed it, her case was closed in absentia. There was a reason she didn’t show: She and her teen daughter were kidnapped on their way to the hearing by gunmen who had made a business out of targeting asylum-seekers enrolled in the policy. “By the time they were released a few days later, Carolina had missed her day in court,” the report noted.
DHS’ statement this week said that the administration “has been working in good faith to re-start MPP in compliance with the order, and it will continue to do so.” The administration needs Mexico’s cooperation to reimplement the policy. DHS said it has “instituted an interagency Task Force to efficiently rebuild the infrastructure and reapportioning the staffing that will be needed to restart MPP once that concurrence has been obtained.”
But how in the world do you safely restart an illegal program designed to be cruel in the first place? Like legislators said in their letter, ”[i]t is 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.” They were recently joined by over 100 organizations that also agree that there’s “no lawful, safe, or humane way to carry out MPP,” and that any return to MPP—“or an MPP-like policy”—would be “a travesty.”
“Because my experience from MPP, all I was saw was a lot of human suffering on the other side of the border,” Sister Norma Pimentel of Catholic Charities of the Rio Grande Valley told Border Report in August. She was there when the first Remain in Mexico enrollees were welcomed into the U.S. by the Biden administration. She doesn’t want to see a reversal of that. “People were exposed to so much suffering,” she continued. “It’s not fair. It’s not correct. It’s not morally correct. And so I’m concerned for families. I’m concerned for people who will be sent back to wait in Mexico for their asylum hearings as it was previously. It is wrong.”
The Biden administration is right to move again to end Remain in Mexico. It should do the same when it comes to Title 42.