After Two Years, Biden Must End Migrant Protection Protocols and Bring Asylum Seekers Swiftly to Safety

WASHINGTON – Today marks the second anniversary of the Trump administration’s so-called “Migrant Protection Protocols” (MPP), also known as “Remain in Mexico,” which forced thousands of people seeking refugee protection in the United States to wait in grave danger in Mexico for their asylum hearings. Human Rights First has tracked horrific human rights abuses against people forcibly returned to Mexico under the policy, including at least 1,300 public reports of kidnapping, rape, torture and murder.

“For two years, MPP has delivered people seeking U.S. refugee protection to grave dangers by stranding them in Mexico,” said Eleanor Acer, Senior Director for Refugee Protection at Human Rights First.  “The Biden administration should take swift action to rescind MPP, transfer asylum seekers subjected to this horrific policy into safety in the United States, and end other Trump administration policies that endanger people seeking refuge. In order to restore U.S. global leadership on human rights and refugee protection, the Biden administration must uphold U.S. refugee law and treaties at home, and rescind policies that expel people seeking asylum or separate their families. Lives are on the line.”

While the Department of Homeland Security suspended new admissions to MPP last week, thousands stranded in Mexico still need to be brought to safety in the United States. People with pending MPP cases include about 7,200 Cubans, 4,300 Hondurans, 2,400 Guatemalans, 1,600 Salvadorans, 1,500 Venezuelans, and 1,200 Nicaraguans. Human Rights First recommended in its blueprint to the Biden transition that it take action to restore the United States as a leader in refugee protection, and continues to urge a swift end to MPP.

Human Rights First urges that the Biden administration and agency leaders take steps to:

  • Officially rescind Trump administration memoranda purporting to authorize the MPP program and swiftly transfer asylum seekers stranded in danger in MPP to safety in the United States, as outlined in Human Rights First’s recommendations;
  • Uphold U.S. refugee law and treaty obligations, end Title 42 misuse of public health authority to justify expulsions that violate refugee law and treaties,  and cease expelling or turning away to danger people seeking U.S. refugee protection;
  • Rescind and end the asylum entry and transit bans, and withdraw from asylum seeker transfer agreements with countries that are not safe for refugees;
  • Issue instructions on the redress processes for asylum seekers harmed by Trump administration anti-asylum policies to secure a fair assessment of eligibility for U.S. refugee protection; and
  • Ramp-up case management, use legal parole authority and cease sending people seeking U.S. refugee protection to immigration jails while their asylum cases are adjudicated.

Over the last two years, Human Rights First has extensively documented the illegality, chaos, and human damage caused by the Trump administration’s MPP policy. These include reports issued in March 2019August 2019October 2019December 2019January 2020May 2020 and December 2020, as well as its tracking of public reports of kidnappings and other attacks based on interviews by Human Rights First with asylum seekers, attorneys, and humanitarian workers, as well as reports by journalists and other human rights groups.

“Every day the Trump administration’s dangerous, illegal MPP policy remains in place, the U.S. government is putting the lives of people seeking safety in the United States at risk,” said Kennji Kizuka, senior researcher for refugee protection at Human Rights First. “U.S. asylum policy should protect refugees, not send them to danger. The end of the inhumane ‘Remain in Mexico’ policy cannot come soon enough. We look forward to a swift end to MPP so that asylum seekers no longer face horrific attacks like those we tracked over the past two years.”

Human Rights First’s recommendations for ending MPP are outlined in this guide to ending MPP and December 2020 report addressing the damage inflicted on asylum seekers by the Trump administration’s MPP and Title 42 expulsion policies. People seeking refuge in the U.S. can be received swiftly and safely despite the ongoing pandemic, as leading public health experts have explained in their recommendations.


Published on January 29, 2021


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