SAN ANTONIO – During the past four years, the Migrant Protection Protocols policy, or MPP, has forced thousands of asylum seekers to wait in refugee camps in Mexico for their U.S. court hearings. That policy could soon come to an end.
In a 5-4 ruling, the U.S. Supreme Court justices announced Thursday morning that the “remain in Mexico” policy could end under the Biden Administration. The ruling can be read here.
The policy was enacted in January 2019 by the Trump Administration and gave authority to U.S. border officers to return certain asylum seekers to Mexico.
Since then, an estimated 71,000 migrants have been waiting for their future to be determined by the U.S. government. However, Sara Ramey, executive director for Migrant Center for Human Rights, said not many are granted asylum.
“The MPP cases that have been decided so far, it’s about 32,000 people who have been issued removal orders,” Ramey said.
According to Ramey, 742 have won their asylum cases, and only 441 had legal representation. A total of 32,226 migrants have been denied protection under MPP, with the majority not having representation. She said 7,488 people are still waiting for their first hearing, but more than 25,000 cases are still pending.
It’s a disparity Ramey said boils down to safety and access to resources.
“It’s almost impossible to obtain a U.S. immigration attorney being out of the country,” Ramey said. “Not only do attorneys not want to risk traveling to dangerous border cities to meet with clients, but it’s also very difficult for individuals there to have a safe, confidential space where they can and have the technology (to) Zoom in or even (make) a basic phone call with an attorney (for) preparing paperwork.”
That’s why immigration advocates have embraced SCOTUS’s ruling on MPP.
“It is a very positive step forward,” Ramey said. “It is a program that has caused thousands of people to be harmed. Documented cases, there are over a thousand.”
She hopes Thursday’s ruling will resolve the abuse endured by migrants on the border.
“It’s worth noting, however, that MPP has largely been replaced by Title 42 expulsions,” Ramey said. “So, the numbers of individuals actually placed into MPP are fairly low since the Biden administration reinitiated MPP in December. We have seen about 5,000 new individuals being placed in MPP, but we have hundreds of thousands of people in the last year who have been expelled under Title 42 and basically don’t even have a chance at having a court hearing and having their case considered.”
During a press conference in Eagle Pass on Wednesday, Gov. Greg Abbott said ending policies like MPP would add to the staggering numbers of migrant crossings at the border.
“It’s time for President Biden to reinstate the strategies that were put in place by President Trump that proved so effective,” Abbott said. “So, they are these: building a border wall, keeping in place both Title 42 and the “remain in Mexico” policy and enforcing those.”
“If they do not follow the standard, Texas can take legal action and go to court to hold a president, to hold Secretary (of the Department of Homeland Security Alejandro) Mayorkas and other operatives in the federal government in contempt of court,” he continued.
It is still unclear if the Biden Administration would try to end the program immediately or wait for the lower court to rule.
“The lower courts were given a pretty clear mandate that this injunction was termed illegal,” Ramey said. “Moving forward, the (SCOTUS) mandate has to get remanded to the Fifth Circuit (Court) so that the injunction can be taken off the books. And once that happens, we anticipate that the administration will go back to paroling people in and allowing them to reside in the U.S. with family and friends while they’re waiting for these court hearings.”
Ramey said it could take time for a new process to be set up to parole asylum seekers into the U.S.
For more information on the Migrant Center for Human Rights based in San Antonio, click here.