Reinstatement of “Remain in Mexico” policy puts thousands of vulnerable people at risk

The Biden administration must do everything within its power to end the Migrant Protection Protocols once and for all

In Plaza de la República in Reynosa, northeastern Mexico, more than 2,000 people from the Northern Triangle of Central America are living in tents on the street in deplorable conditions after being expelled from the United States when they were seeking protection.
Mexico 2021 © MSF/Esteban Montaño
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The reinstatement of the “Remain in Mexico” policy is a devastating blow to thousands of people seeking asylum in the US, said the international medical humanitarian organization Doctors Without Borders/Médecins Sans Frontières (MSF) today. “Remain in Mexico”, officially known as the Migrant Protection Protocols (MPP), is a program that endangers the lives of asylum seekers by forcing them to remain in Mexico while waiting for their claims to be heard. The policy is expected to be reinstated on or around December 6, according to a US Department of Homeland Security statement released today. A federal court ordered the Biden Administration to reinstate MPP shortly after it was fully rescinded in June.

MSF, which has provided medical care and mental health services to people on the move in Mexico for years, has documented the risks asylum seekers enrolled in MPP have faced in Mexico, their systematic exposure to violence and trauma, and their lack of access to shelter and basic services.

Avril Benoît, executive director of MSF-USA, gave the following statement in response to today’s announcement:

MPP is inhumane. It is among the most harmful immigration policies imposed by the US in recent years, punishing those fleeing violence and persecution and denying protection to vulnerable people. We are witnessing yet another blow to the battered US asylum system.

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We see the human costs of MPP on asylum seekers in Mexico: the kidnappings, the assaults, the extortion. Between the time MPP was first implemented by the Trump administration and the time it was rescinded by the Biden administration, more than 71,000 asylum seekers were turned away by the US and sent back to face difficult and dangerous conditions in Mexico. Our teams in Mexico have treated the victims of this cruel policy for its impacts on their physical and mental health.

We are extremely concerned about the additional risks of restarting MPP on top of the ongoing use of the Title 42 order, which has been used by both the Trump and Biden administrations to carry out more than 1.2 million expulsions without due process. The overlap of these two policies will undoubtedly add to the abuse, chaos, and confusion associated with the US asylum process at the southern border.

We welcomed the Biden administration’s move to unwind and then repeal MPP in June. The most recent memo issued by the Department of Homeland Security in late October to re-terminate MPP provides detailed acknowledgement of the numerous harms caused by the policy. The administration must now do everything within its power to quash MPP once and for all.

We also repeat our call on the Biden administration to end Title 42 expulsions. The administration’s recent memo on MPP acknowledges that it is unacceptable for the US to send asylum seekers back to Mexico to face extreme violence and insecurity – which is exactly what it continues to do through its implementation of the Title 42 policy. As a medical humanitarian organization, we know that the imposition of Title 42 is not justified on public health grounds, that it increases the risk of COVID-19 transmission among vulnerable groups, and that it threatens the lives and health of people seeking protection.