Court Blocks Government’s ‘Remain in Mexico’ Asylum Policy

By Shani Saxon Apr 09, 2019

United States District Judge Richard Seeborg granted an injunction that blocks the federal government from using its Migrant Protection Protocols (MPP), also known as the “Remain in Mexico” policy, NPR reports.  

In his 27-page ruling, the San Francisco-based judge declared MPP an unlawful practice that fails to ensure the safety of migrants seeking asylum. He also wrote that the practice carelessly sends those seeking protection “to places where they face undue risk to their lives or freedom."

The MPP, which was announced in December 2018, was to send some migrants seeking asylum to Mexico while they wait for their immigration hearings. The program immediately faced backlash, as critics argued that migrants would be placed in “grave” danger. As previously reported by Colorlines:


Some migrants run the risk of “kidnapping or death” once they are deported to Mexican border cities, according to a report in Reuters. The city of Reynosa in the Mexican state of Tamaulipas, for example, is often where cartel members battle to the death over their stake in the lucrative drug game. According to Reuters, “civilians are often caught in the crossfire.” Reynosa also houses the “busiest crossing point along the northern Mexican border for migrants seeking asylum in the United States.”

Additional problems with the policy were revealed during hearings for migrants who sought asylum at the United States-Mexico border, but were sent back to Mexico via MPP. A general lack of organization reportedly caused “chaos and confusion” in courtrooms. According to CNN, “Lawyers tried to seek answers to what should have been basic questions from Immigration and Customs Enforcement (ICE) attorneys, who seemed equally confused about the new administration policy keeping those migrants in Mexico.”

Judge Seeborg’s decision was in response to a lawsuit filed by the American Civil Liberties Union (ACLU) and other advocacy groups on behalf of 11 Central-American asylum-seekers. The organizations argued that forcing migrants to wait in Mexico is a violation of U.S. humanitarian protection policies. Judy Rabinovitz, deputy director of the ACLU’s Immigrants’ Rights Project, said in a statement obtained by NPR: “The court strongly rejected the Trump administration’s unprecedented and illegal policy of forcing asylum seekers to return to Mexico without hearing their claims. Try as it may, the Trump administration cannot simply ignore our laws in order to accomplish its goal of preventing people from seeking asylum in the United States.”

Per the judge’s ruling, the federal government has until 5 p.m. on Friday (April 12) to appeal the decision. The migrants in the lawsuit can seek entry via the U.S.-Mexico border two days later.