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Alex Mensing, Communications Strategist
Rights Advocates Seek Relief for Thousands of Asylum Seekers Left Behind by Biden Administration Wind-down of Remain in Mexico Policy
Los Angeles, CA – Immigration advocates filed an amended complaint in a class action lawsuit challenging the continuing effects of the “Remain in Mexico” policy on asylum-seeking individuals who remain stranded outside the United States and legal service providers seeking to represent them. Despite formally ending the policy, the Biden administration’s “wind-down” process has left behind thousands of people who received final removal orders without a meaningful opportunity to present their asylum claims. These individuals continue to live in untenable conditions and face daunting barriers to accessing the U.S. asylum process.
The lawsuit, Immigrant Defenders Law Center, et al. v. Mayorkas, seeks to facilitate the return to the United States of individual asylum-seeking plaintiffs, with appropriate precautionary public health measures, for a period sufficient to enable them to seek legal representation, prepare and file their motions to reopen, and pursue their asylum claims from inside the United States if such motions are granted. The lawsuit also seeks to facilitate the work of legal service organizations that represent individuals subjected to the policy. The suit was filed by six asylum-seeking individuals subjected to Remain in Mexico as well as Immigrant Defenders Law Center and Jewish Family Service of San Diego.
Below are comments from the groups involved in the case:
“Two years ago the U.S. government implemented the disastrous Migrant Protection Protocols (MPP) program that exposed asylum seekers to dangerous, life-threatening conditions while also cutting off their access to lawyers and legal assistance. The end of MPP has done little to bring relief to the thousands who remain trapped in Mexico and who continue to be deprived of security, stability, and access to legal representation. We will not allow the Biden Administration to turn its back on them and need to hold them accountable.”
– Margaret Cargioli, Managing Attorney, Immigrant Defenders Law Center
The MPP program implemented by the Department of Homeland Security continues to wreak havoc on those who have been forcibly returned to Mexico and are currently stranded outside the U.S. There is no clarity about how they move forward and when they will be processed by DHS. With too few represented by counsel and no way for others to even access and secure counsel, this continued lawsuit is necessary to ensure migrants receive due process and are able to seek their legal right to asylum in the U.S.”
–Luis Gonzalez, Managing Immigration Attorney, Jewish Family Service of San Diego
“Tens of thousands of men, women and children were forced into precarious, life-threatening situations due to the Remain in Mexico policy. Unfortunately, many continue to be denied a meaningful opportunity to seek protection under the so-called wind-down. After the hell they have endured, the least we can do now is to ensure all who have been harmed have a clear pathway to access legal representation and pursue their asylum claims from inside the United States. Allowing these individuals to vindicate their rights is a critical step toward establishing a functional asylum process.”
–Melissa Crow, Senior Supervising Attorney, Southern Poverty Law Center
“DHS’s efforts to wind down the Remain in Mexico program have neglected thousands of people who are still stranded outside the United States with no recourse. The government cannot now shut its eyes to the inhumanity, disaster, and suffering that it has manufactured.”
–Amber Qureshi, Staff Attorney, National Immigration Project of the National Lawyers Guild
“The ‘Remain in Mexico’ policy succeeded, tragically, in stripping tens of thousands of asylum-seeking families of the safety, protection and due process rights they struggled so bravely to access by fleeing danger in their home countries. While ‘Remain in Mexico’ has officially been terminated, far too many of the people who were denied protection are still suffering and struggling to survive as they wait for the Biden Administration to finally right the wrongs of this horrendous policy.”
–Tess Hellgren, Deputy Legal Director, Innovation Law Lab
A copy of the filing can be found here.
Marion Steinfels, Southern Poverty Law Center, 202-557-0430, firstname.lastname@example.org
Arianna Rosales, National Immigration Project, (202) 524-9121, email@example.com
Alex Mensing, Innovation Law Lab, 619-432-6378, firstname.lastname@example.org
Jewish Family Service of San Diego (JFS) was founded in 1918 and since then has remained committed to the ever-changing needs of immigrants coming to our community and to the San Diego-Tijuana border. JFS works to ensure that vulnerable individuals receive the benefits and legal protections United States law affords, including the right to counsel. Through integrated services, such as legal assistance and asylum seeker transition services, JFS empowers people of all ages, faiths, and backgrounds to overcome challenges, set goals, and build more stable, secure, and connected lives. To get help, volunteer or support JFS, visit www.jfssd.org.
Immigrant Defenders Law Center (ImmDef) is a next-generation 501(c)3 social justice law firm that defends our immigrant communities against injustices in the immigration court system. We believe that the right to counsel in deportation proceedings is a necessary step towards ensuring due process for all. Our model of universal representation is built on this principle. It is our long-term goal to ensure that no immigrant is forced to go to court alone.
The Southern Poverty Law Center (SPLC) is a catalyst for racial justice in the South and beyond, working in partnership with communities to dismantle white supremacy, strengthen intersectional movements, and advance the human rights of all people. SPLC’s Immigrant Justice Project (IJP) works on the ground in the immigration courts and detention centers to reveal systemic abuses and file impact litigation against those abuses. IJP is actively litigating for the rights of asylum seekers, guest workers, separated families and immigrants in the Immigration and Customs Enforcement (ICE) detention to deportation pipeline. IJP also works in coordination with the SPLC’s Southeast Immigrant Freedom Initiative, which provides pro bono legal representation to individuals in ICE custody across the Deep South. For more information, visit www.splcenter.org.
The National Immigration Project of the National Lawyers Guild (NIPNLG) is a national non-profit membership organization of lawyers, law students, legal workers, advocates, and jailhouse lawyers working to defend and extend the rights of all noncitizens in the United States, regardless of immigration status. We pursue all forms of legal advocacy on behalf of immigrants and provide technical assistance and support to legal practitioners, community-based immigrant organizations, and advocates seeking and working to advance the rights of noncitizens. Learn more at nipnlg.org. Follow NIPNLG on social media: National Immigration Project of the National Lawyers Guild on Facebook, @NIPNLG on Twitter.
Innovation Law Lab, based in Portland, Oregon with projects around the United States, is a nonprofit organization that harnesses technology, lawyers and organizers to advance immigrant and refugee justice. For more information, see www.innovationlawlab.org and follow us on social media: Innovation Law Lab on Facebook and @ThinkLawLab on Twitter.
About Arnold & Porter: With nearly 1,000 lawyers practicing in 13 offices around the globe, Arnold & Porter serves clients across 40 distinct practice areas. The firm offers 100 years of renowned regulatory expertise, sophisticated litigation and transactional practices, and leading multidisciplinary offerings in the life sciences and financial services industries. For more information, visit www.arnoldporter.com.