Human Rights First Welcomes Opportunity for Supreme Court to Uphold the Biden Administration’s Authority to End Illegal “Remain in Mexico” Policy
WASHINGTON — Today, the Supreme Court granted the Biden administration’s request for expedited review of a lower court decision forcing it to reimplement the deadly Remain in Mexico policy (absurdly dubbed “Migrant Protection Protocols,” or “MPP,” by the Trump administration that created it). Human Rights First welcomes the Supreme Court’s urgent review of a Fifth Circuit decision as dangerous to the lives of refugees as it was stunning as an example of judicial overreach.
“By prioritizing this case, the Supreme Court can authorize an end to this punitive and dangerous policy,” said Anwen Hughes, director of legal strategy, refugee programs. “The Supreme Court will have to consider the dangerous precedent that would result from allowing individual state governments to dictate the immigration and foreign policies of any presidential administration. The justices, who previously declined to pause the preliminary injunction that has led to the reinstatement of MPP, have another chance now to set things right.”
While the policy was in effect under the Trump administration from January 2019 until early 2021, Human Rights First 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. Human Rights First monitored the implementation of the Remain in Mexico policy, from its inception and through its wind-down, issuing reports in December 2020, May 2020, January 2020, December 2019, October 2019, August 2019, and February 2019, documenting the acute violence inflicted on asylum seekers.
“The Biden administration was right to end Remain in Mexico, a policy that deliberately subjected asylum seekers and migrants to inhumane conditions and deplorable levels of violence in Mexico,” said Eleanor Acer, senior director, refugee protection. “Remain in Mexico was – and is – a humanitarian and due process travesty. Turning people seeking refuge back to danger is illegal and inhumane, whether it is done through Remain in Mexico, Title 42 or similar policies that evade refugee law.”
Last month, Human Rights First issued a report documenting the return of asylum seekers under the reimplemented MPP policy to danger in Mexico where some had been kidnapped and tortured. To date, 92 percent of returns to Mexico under the reimplemented MPP policy have been of people from Cuba, Nicaragua, and Venezuela – countries from which many refugees are fleeing persecution. The report also identified more than 8,705 kidnappings and other violent attacks against migrants and asylum seekers blocked from U.S. protection in Mexico and/or expelled to Mexico under the Title 42 policy since President Biden took office.
Human Rights First also represented asylum seekers in MPP, including “Alec,” the first of approximately 1 percent of all individuals subjected to the policy to be granted asylum despite the enormous hurdles MPP threw in their path. Another client and her 13-year-old son survived kidnapping, rape, threats, and stalking during the year and a half the U.S. government forced them to wait in Mexico, much of which they spent in a tent encampment. All of Human Rights First’s clients subjected to MPP experienced emotional and psychological trauma. Many experienced physical harm or threats of violence while attempting to exercise their legal right to seek protection in the United States.
The Attorneys General of Texas and Missouri initially brought the underlying suit in the case taken up today by the Supreme Court in an attempt to block the Biden administration from ending the MPP policy. Human Rights First and our NGO partners have previously submitted “friend of the court” or amicus briefs in this case supporting the government’s authority to end MPP, highlighting the policy’s illegality and horrifying effects on people returned to danger, and backing the government’s request to the Fifth Circuit and the Supreme Court for an emergency stay of the preliminary order requiring restart of MPP, as well as on the merits of the case to the Fifth Circuit. Oral arguments are schedule to be held in mid-April 2022.