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AILA Doc. No. 19091660 | Dated October 8, 2020
On January 24, 2019, DHS announced it would begin implementing "Remain in Mexico," a new policy that would force individuals arriving at the U.S. southern border who are fleeing violence and persecution in their home countries to remain in Mexico pending an asylum hearing before a U.S. immigration judge. DHS dubbed this plan, the "Migrant Protection Protocols" (MPP). Remain in Mexico dramatically alters processing of asylum claims at the U.S. southern border and makes it far more difficult for asylum seekers to receive a fair and meaningful review of their claims.
In September 2019, DHS opened massive temporary tent facilities in Laredo and Brownsville, Texas, that function as virtual immigration courtrooms for vulnerable asylum seekers subject to MPP. During the hearings, asylum seekers are held in tents at the ports of entry while judges appear remotely via video teleconference (VTC). Unlike in other immigration courts, the government initially barred attorney observers, press, and the public from accessing these facilities, in violation of DOJ regulations requiring immigration hearings to generally be open to the public. To learn more, see Eyes on the Border but Shut out of the Tent Courts.
Access to the tent courts is critical to ensuring due process, and AILA, along with several other organizations and numerous members of Congress, repeatedly voiced concerns about the lack of transparency. In response, and after months of public demand for access, the Wall Street Journal reported on December 29, 2019, that DHS directed component agencies to open the tent courts to the public. On January 24, 2020, at DHS invitation, several AILA representatives went to Laredo, Texas to tour the tent court facilities and to observe MPP hearings. In this blog post, they explain the due process and access to counsel concerns that persist in the tent courts.
On March 23, 2020 – in response to the COVID-19 pandemic – DHS and EOIR suspended all MPP hearings. The implementation of the suspension was chaotic and confusing, leading some people to travel to ports of entry only to be turned away and others to miss the opportunity to get their notices of rescheduled hearings. In July 2020, DHS and DOJ announced criteria they plan to use to determine when to restart MPP hearings, leaving those subjected to MPP in Mexico for extended periods of time.
Resources on the Effect of COVID-19 on MPP Hearings | AILA Resources on Tent Courts | AILA Resources on Remain in Mexico | Government Announcements and Policies | Select Congressional Oversight Efforts | Litigation | Former Asylum Officer Blows Whistle on Harm to Immigrants Under MPP
Cite as AILA Doc. No. 19091660.