Since January 2019, the U.S. government has trapped over 60,000 individuals seeking asylum in life-threatening conditions in Mexico under the so-called Migrant Protection Protocols—also known as Remain in Mexico. These individuals survived harrowing journeys to seek 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 the previous administration’s everyone-is-deported objective, the Protocols have worked through a multi-pronged approach. First, they have forced asylum seekers to live indefinitely under perilous conditions in Mexico and prevented them from being able to fulfill basic human needs. Second, the Protocols have obstructed legal representation for nearly 93 percent of impacted individuals. Third, the Protocols have effectively confined 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 deprived them of access to their basic needs.

On July 17, 2020, MPP hearings were suspended, leaving asylum seekers trapped in Mexico indefinitely while hoping that the 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 six people seeking asylum who have been subject to the Protocols. 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.

UPDATES: On January 20, 2021, the Biden administration announced it would stop placing new individuals under the Protocols. On February 19, 2021, the administration began to process certain individuals who had been subject to the Protocols into the United States. On June 1, 2021, Defendant Secretary Mayorkas announced the termination of the Protocols.

On August 13, 2021, the U.S. District Court for the Northern District of Texas enjoined the June 1 Termination Directive through the Texas v. Biden case, ordering the government “to enforce and implement MPP in good faith.” On October 29, 2021, Defendant Mayorkas issued a second termination memo. The same day, the government asked the Fifth Circuit Court of Appeals to vacate the district court’s injunction.

Throughout these developments, our lawsuit continues to advocate for the rights of individuals and organizations impacted by the Protocols, including asylum seekers who are excluded from or unable to access the government’s initial processing efforts. *On November 2, 2021, we asked the court to issue an emergency order allowing Individual Plaintiffs to return to the United States in order to seek reopening of their cases and continue pursuing their claims for asylum. Our Ex Parte Application for Temporary Restraining Order is available here.*