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AILA Doc. No. 19091660 | Dated June 25, 2021
Two years after the Migrant Protection Protocols first began, new enrollments into this border processing program officially ended on January 20, 2021. Over this period, thousands of individuals arriving at the U.S. southern border seeking protection were forced to remain in Mexico pending their U.S. immigration court hearings.
MPP or "Remain in Mexico" dramatically altered the processing of asylum claims at the U.S. southern border and made 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 functioned as virtual immigration courtrooms for vulnerable asylum seekers subject to MPP. AILA covered the numerous due process and access to counsel violations while these “tent courts” operated in Eyes on the Border but Shut out of 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.
Finally, on February 11, 2021, DHS announced the beginning of the process to unwind MPP. In this initial phase, individuals in Mexico with active cases were permitted register online or by phone with the UNHCR and paroled into the U.S. at a port of entry. AILA called on DHS to expand processing to additional people who were subjected to MPP given the significant due process and fairness concerns surrounding the whole program. On June 23, 2021, DHS expanded eligibility for processing into the U.S. to people in Mexico with in absentia orders of removal or whose cases were terminated. Notably, former MPP individuals who fled to safety in the U.S. and those who were forced to return to their home countries are permitted to register. However, DHS has not indicated how they will proceed with these categories of people and cases. Unfortunately, the June expansion does not protect people who were ordered removed following a final hearing in the tent MPP “courts.”
Since President Biden took office, nearly 4,000 asylum-seekers who had been forced to remain in Mexico under the Migration Protection Protocols (MPP) have been processed and their cases transferred to U.S. immigration courts. The new hearing locations include 63 different courts with the Florida courts being the most popular locations. Eligible former MPP individuals are current being processing at the San Ysidro, El Paso, Eagle Pass, Laredo, Hidalgo, and Brownsville ports of entry. Of cases pending at the of January 2021, 85 percent continue to wait to be processed. There is still no government announcement as to the potential for processing of non-active MPP cases or those on appeal to the Circuit Courts.
Cite as AILA Doc. No. 19091660.
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