By Cheasty Anderson and Marianna Montes Moreno
January 29th, 2021, would have marked the second year of one of the harshest and most tragic changes to the American asylum system with the implementation of the Migrant Protection Protocols (MPP), also known as the “Remain in Mexico” policy. As of last Friday, however, that program has come to an end.
During President Biden’s first hours in office, he signed eight administrative actions on Immigration, including the suspension of new enrollments in MPP. The Children’s Defense Fund of Texas is pleased to see his commitment to act quickly to build a “fair and humane” immigration system. We hope that these first steps mark the end of an era of attacks on migrants’ rights, and look forward to continued action to repair the many harms the MPP policy, along with other anti-immigrant policies, has caused.
MPP, in concert with Title 42 (the CDC’s permission to close the border for COVID) is perpetuating serious abuses against migrants. According to the Transactional Records Access Clearinghouse or TRAC center, since January 2019 more than 70,000 people have been returned to wait in Mexico for court hearings. And, according to the American Immigration Council, there are 20,000 people with pending MPP cases remaining in Mexico. As of mid-December, 2020, there were at least 1,314 publicly recorded cases of murder, kidnapping, rape, and other crimes against migrants and asylum seekers returned by force to Mexico under MPP, according to Human Rights First. More than 5,000 families have been forcibly separated. 700 unaccompanied children crossed the U.S. border after being sent back to Mexico with their family members, and just 643 minors have been released to relatives.
The Biden-Harris administration must take immediate action to, first, allow these families to be paroled so they can seek safety from within the U.S., and second, to allow individuals harmed by this policy to have a second chance at seeking asylum. The work of nonprofit and grassroots organizations is going to be crucial once they’re admitted inside the country to help them arrange transit to their final destination.
On January 29th, we expect President Biden to sign more executive orders related to immigration. These executive orders should protect and advocate for the rights of migrants by ending policies that result in the further traumatization of asylum seekers. There is abundant evidence that alternative policies are more effective, less expensive, and humane. We have confidence that the Biden administration is acting in good faith, but we must keep pushing for immediate and aggressive action.