Transfer of FEMA Funds for Remain in Mexico Legally Dubious, Fundamentally Disastrous
Washington, D.C.—Human Rights First today condemned the Trump Administration’s transfer of funding from the Federal Emergency Management Agency (FEMA) for support of its disastrous and unnecessary Migrant Protection Protocols (MPP). The transfer will include $155 million for MPP hearing facilities taken directly from FEMA and $116 million for increased detention from various other accounts. The questionably legal move comes as FEMA prepares for hurricane season.
“The Remain in Mexico plan has already proven to be a fiasco, funding it further, at the expense of an already beleaguered FEMA, is a recipe for disaster. Not only is the legality of this move in question—as funds can only be legally transferred to provide additional detention beds, not hearing facilities—it’s unconscionable to take funds away during hurricane season,” said Human Rights First’s Jennifer Quigley. “It’s sadly ironic that the administration is taking much needed resources away from disaster relief in order to exacerbate a disaster of its own making. Congress needs to step up and take the White House to task.”
Human Rights First notes that increasing detention capacity is completely unnecessary. According to a 2009 Department of Homeland Security (DHS) Parole Directive, asylum seekers who have established a credible fear of persecution should be granted parole in the public interest and released from detention during the pendency of their asylum claims if the individual establishes their identity and demonstrates they are not a flight or security risk. Under the Trump Administration, however, Immigration and Customs Enforcement parole rates have plummeted, leading Human Rights First to sue the administration.
Earlier this month, Human Rights First issued a new report documenting the impact of the Trump Administration’s Migrant Protection Protocols on asylum seekers at the southern border. Delivered to Danger: Illegal Remain in Mexico Policy Imperils Asylum Seekers’ Lives and Denies Due Process offers detailed accounts of targeted attacks against returned asylum seekers, and captures how the administration is illegally shutting down asylum protections. The report is based on and features interviews with dozens of asylum seekers stranded in Mexico, communications with attorneys, local advocates, and Mexican government officials, and includes observations of court hearings from more than 170 returned asylum seekers.
In June, Human Rights First, in partnership with more than a dozen organizations with refugee and regional human rights expertise, released a blueprint offering concrete steps to manage the humanitarian crisis at the U.S. southern border and to address the damage the Trump Administration’s mismanagement of it has caused.