Rights Advocates Seek Relief for Thousands of Asylum Seekers Left Behind by Biden Administration Wind-down of Remain in Mexico Policy
For Immediate Release
August 16, 2021
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.
The National Immigration Project of the National Lawyers Guild (NIPNLG) is a national non-profit organization that provides technical assistance and support to community-based immigrant organizations, legal practitioners, and all advocates seeking and working to advance the rights of noncitizens. NIPNLG utilizes impact litigation, advocacy, and public education to pursue its mission. Learn more at nipnlg.org. Follow NIPNLG on social media: National Immigration Project of the National Lawyers Guild on Facebook, @NIPNLG on Twitter and Instagram.