Advocates Submit Brief to Stop the Revival of Migrant Protection Protocols

August 18, 2021

WASHINGTON – Immigration groups and former immigration judges filed an amicus brief Tuesday in Texas v. Biden, a lawsuit brought by Texas and Missouri in an attempt to revive the Migrant Protection Protocols (MPP)–an illegal Trump-era policy that imperiled the lives of families, children, and adults seeking asylum.

Last week a federal judge in Texas ordered the Biden administration to reinstate MPP, issuing a disappointing decision riddled with legal and factual errors. The group’s brief supports the administration’s request to stay that ruling, debunking the erroneous findings upon which it rests and asking the Fifth Circuit to block the reinstatement of MPP.

Launched by the Trump administration in 2019, MPP forcibly returned people seeking asylum to Mexico to await their U.S. court dates in dangerous conditions. Human rights investigators documented over 1,500 violent attacks against people placed in MPP, a figure that likely represents just the tip of the iceberg. The program deprived asylum seekers of any semblance of due process and made accessing legal representation nearly impossible. Procedural problems, compounded by the grave dangers in northern Mexico, prevented many people from even making it to court.

This brief was authored by the American Immigration Council, Center for Gender & Refugee Studies, Human Rights First, and the Southern Poverty Law Center. 

“MPP was a humanitarian catastrophe, and the Biden administration was right to terminate it,” said Blaine Bookey, Legal Director of the Center for Gender & Refugee Studies (CGRS). “The district judge in this case ignored copious evidence documenting the horrors of MPP, resting his decision on the misguided idea that draconian policies deter forced migration. That could not be further from the truth. All MPP did was trap families, children, and adults in dangerous conditions, while violating our laws and moral obligations.”

​​“MPP turned its nose at due process, left asylum seekers stranded in one of the most violent parts of the world, and shirked our humanitarian obligations protected by federal and international law. Yet a judge in Texas conveniently glossed over these facts when ordering that the program be reinstated. We’ve now asked the court of appeals to correct these errors and keep MPP a stain in the history books, rather than a present-day disaster,” said Kate Melloy Goettel, Legal Director of Litigation at the American Immigration Council.

“The Remain in Mexico policy delivered people seeking U.S. refuge to kidnapping, rape, torture and other violent attacks and denied asylum seekers a fair opportunity to present their requests for protection,” said Anwen Hughes, Director of Legal Strategy for Refugee Programs at Human Rights First. “It was an illegal and unwise policy and the decision to terminate it was based on abundant evidence of its dangers and ineffectiveness. We ask the court of appeals to stay the district court’s decision so that this terrible experiment is not reinstated.”

“This decision by the district court is fundamentally flawed and flouts the rights of individuals seeking protection in the United States by reiterating xenophobic talking points straight out of the Stephen Miller playbook,” said Gracie Willis, staff attorney with the Southern Poverty Law Center. “Tens of thousands of individuals were returned to dangerous conditions in Mexico under MPP, creating a previously unimaginable humanitarian and due process catastrophe. This decision, if not overturned, would only cause additional harm and pull us farther from the values we hope to see in our immigration system.”


For more information, contact:

Maria Frausto, American Immigration Council, at [email protected] or 202-507-7526; Brianna Krong, [email protected].

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Elyssa Pachico
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