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Ramon Valdez, Director Strategic Initiatives
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San Francisco, CA ー On Wednesday, March 11, 2020, the U.S. Supreme Court granted the federal government’s application for a stay of the lower court’s preliminary injunction blocking implementation of the Trump Administration’s “Remain in Mexico” policy, officially known as the “Migrant Protection Protocols” or “MPP”.  Per the court’s order, the injunction will be stayed to allow the government to file a petition for a writ of certiorari.  If the writ of certiorari is granted, the stay will remain in place until the Supreme Court rules on the legality of the program. Practically speaking, this means that the government will be allowed to implement the so-called Migrant Protection Protocols for the foreseeable future. Justice Sotomayor would have denied the government’s stay request.

“We are heartbroken that “Remain in Mexico”, a lethal policy that pushes thousands of vulnerable men, women, and children into dangerous situations without any access to due process, will remain in effect,” said Jordan Cunnings, attorney at Innovation Law Lab. “The United States has a longstanding tradition of providing safe haven to people fleeing persecution. Through programs like Remain in Mexico, the Trump Administration is abandoning our moral obligations and practically eliminating the rights of refugees.” 

Since the “Remain in Mexico” policy went into effect in January of 2019, more than 60,000 asylum seekers have been returned to Mexico where migrants subject to the program are trapped in untenable situations along the border.  Many have fallen victim to kidnappings, physical and sexual violence, homelessness, and unlawful deportations from Mexico. Advocates along the border also report that the policy has severely impeded asylum seekers’ access to legal representation, posing nearly insurmountable logistical barriers to retaining and communicating with legal counsel in the United States.  

In its lawsuit, Innovation Law Lab v Wolf, filed before the U.S. District Court for the Northern District of California on February 14, 2019, Innovation Law Lab and its co-plaintiffs allege that Trump’s “Remain in Mexico” policy violates the Immigration and Nationality Act, the Administrative Procedure Act, and the United States’ duty under domestic and international law to not return people to dangerous conditions.  

In April of 2019, a California district court ruled that the Trump Administration’s policy is unlawful and temporarily blocked its implementation. However, the Ninth Circuit Court of Appeals later stayed the lower court’s injunction, allowing the “Remain in Mexico” policy to continue until the appellate court ruled on the case.  

In February of 2020, a 2-1 panel of the Ninth Circuit held that the program is unlawful and lifted the stay; the same panel then narrowed the scope of the injunction to the Ninth Circuit and issued an administrative stay to allow the government to seek emergency review before the Supreme Court.  Multiple amicus briefs have been filed in support of plaintiffs, including briefs by current U.S. Asylum Officers, former U.S. government officials in the Departments of State and Homeland Security, and the United Nations High Commissioner for Refugees. 

The lawsuit, Innovation Law Lab v Wolf,  is brought by eleven individual plaintiffs, Innovation Law Lab, Central American Resource Center of Northern California, Centro Legal de la Raza, the University of San Francisco School of Law Immigration and Deportation Defense Clinic, Al Otro Lado, and the Tahirih Justice Center. Plaintiffs are represented by the American Civil Liberties Union (ACLU), Southern Poverty Law Center (SPLC), and Center for Gender & Refugee Studies (CGRS).