Since January 2019, the Trump Administration has trapped over 60,000 individuals seeking asylum in life-threatening conditions in Mexico under the Migrant Protection Protocols—also known as Remain in Mexico. These individuals suffered harm in their home countries, survived harrowing journeys, and sought protection in the United States, only to be sent back to dangerous Mexican border towns to await immigration court hearings that may never happen.
The Protocols have functioned to deport nearly every individual subjected to them. Their ruthless effectiveness in this regard—as evidenced by the 98 percent deportation rate for affected individuals over twenty months—is consistent with their Orwellian name.
To achieve their everyone-is-deported objective, the Trump Administration has adopted a multi-pronged approach. First, it forces asylum seekers to live indefinitely under perilous conditions in Mexico and prevents them from being able to fulfill basic human needs. Second, the Protocols has obstructed legal representation for nearly 93 percent of impacted individuals. Third, the Protocols effectively confines asylum-seekers to extreme danger zones, where they are vulnerable to assault, robbery, rape, kidnapping, and other harm at the hands of cartels, gang members, and Mexican officials, and deprives them of access to their basic needs.
On July 17, 2020, MPP hearings were suspended indefinitely, leaving asylum-seekers trapped in Mexico.
In February 2020, the U.S. Court of Appeals for the Ninth Circuit affirmed a preliminary injunction setting aside the Protocols because they are statutorily unauthorized. Innovation Law Lab v. Wolf, 951 F.3d 1073, 1084 (9th Cir. 2020). The U.S. Supreme Court initially stayed the injunction pending the disposition of a petition for a writ of certiorari, 140 S. Ct. 1564 (2020), which was later granted, – S. Ct. – (Oct. 19, 2020). The stay remains in place pending review of the certiorari petition by the Supreme Court. In the meantime, people continue to struggle to survive in the hope that the U.S. government may one day restore their right to seek protection in the United States.
Through this lawsuit, advocates seek to enjoin the Protocols and begin the restoration of asylum law.
Plaintiffs in the case are Immigrant Defenders Law Center and Jewish Family Service of San Diego, organizations providing representation to asylum-seekers, and several brave individuals proceeding under pseudonym. Counsel for Plaintiffs are Innovation Law Lab, Southern Poverty Law Center, National Immigration Project of the National Lawyers Guild, along with pro bono partner, Arnold & Porter.