Last night, we filed a second amended complaint in Immigrant Defenders Law Center et al. v. Mayorkas. The case challenges the continuing effects of the first incarnation of the Migrant Protection Protocols (MPP 1.0) on individuals still stranded outside the United States and organizational plaintiffs Immigrant Defenders Law Center and Jewish Family Service of San Diego, whose efforts to provide legal services to such individuals have been continually thwarted. 

Even as the Biden administration rolls out MPP 2.0, thousands of asylum seekers who were subjected to MPP 1.0 – including children and families with terminated cases and final orders of removal – remain in grave danger with no meaningful access to the U.S. asylum system. While the Department of Homeland Security has acknowledged that the Remain in Mexico policy “impos[ed] substantial and unjustifiable human costs on migrants who were exposed to harm while waiting in Mexico,” the policy continues to deprive affected individuals of security, stability, and meaningful access to legal representation, making it virtually impossible for them to pursue their claims for protection. Their stories are heartbreaking.

For example, Plaintiff Yesenia Doe was forced to return to Mexico under the Remain in Mexico policy in July 2019, along with her son. That very day, they were kidnapped by a Mexican cartel and held for several weeks. Out of desperation, they returned to Honduras and missed their court hearing, which resulted in an in absentia removal order. However, after receiving death threats, they promptly returned to Mexico, where they remain in danger. 

Like her co-plaintiffs, Gabriela Doe was forced to return to Mexico under the Remain in Mexico policy in July 2019 with her daughter. Despite diligently searching for an attorney, Gabriela was unable to find legal representation and struggled to file the necessary English-language documents in immigration court. Almost immediately after Gabriela and her daughter were returned to Mexico following their hearing, they were kidnapped and threatened with death if they remained in the border city where they were living. Gabriela and her daughter remained in hiding for almost a full year. Now, Gabriela has devoted herself to helping run a shelter for other migrants in Mexico, which has made her the target of threats and surveillance by the local cartel. 

Yesenia and Gabriela’s co-plaintiffs have equally devastating stories and are also living in dire situations, as described in the second amended complaint.

Plaintiffs allege that the Biden administration unnecessarily and unlawfully suspended the Remain in Mexico wind-down process that had previously enabled some individuals subjected to MPP 1.0 to re-enter the U.S. to pursue their asylum claims. According to the complaint, the government mistakenly believed that the Texas v. Biden injunction required cessation of the wind-down and failed to take into account the reliance interests of those impacted by the wind-down. 

Counsel for plaintiffs are Innovation Law Lab, Southern Poverty Law Center, National Immigration Project of the National Lawyers Guild, and pro bono partner Arnold & Porter.