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Penn Law Transnational Legal Clinic, University of Texas School of Law Immigration Clinic File Petition Against Migration Protection Protocols (MPP)

January 29, 2020

Petition filed on one-year anniversary of implementation of MPP program, also known as “Remain in Mexico”

The Penn Law Transnational Legal Clinic under the direction of Professor Sarah Paoletti, together with the University of Texas School of Law Immigration Clinic, filed a Request for Precautionary Measures against Mexico and the United States before the Inter-American Commission on Human Rights, asking the Commission to seek an end to the Migration Protection Protocols (MPP), or what’s known as the “Remain in Mexico” program. Since its start one year ago today, the Department of Homeland Security (DHS) has forced more than 60,000 asylum seekers and other migrants to wait in Mexico while their immigration court proceedings are pending in the United States.

The petition argues that the U.S. is violating its obligations to ensure safety and security, the right to seek asylum, the right to due process and access to courts, and the right to non-refoulement by returning asylum seekers to Mexico, where their lives are in danger – and that by doing so, they are effectively denying them access to the asylum system and due process. The case against Mexico argues that the country is violating its obligations to ensure the safety and security of the asylum seekers returned to Mexico by the U.S., and that it is taking affirmative steps to interfere with asylum seekers’ access to the U.S. courts and asylum system.

“The MPP process is impeding asylum seekers and forcing them back to their home countries from which they were originally fleeing prospection,” explained Paoletti. “When this happens, they are returned to the dangerous conditions from which they fled, and further open themselves up to additional persecution because they fled. Those that are stuck in Mexico are also being exposed to unthinkable acts of violence, stuck in communities that are notoriously unsafe with active cartels, government corruption and no police protection.”

According to a report released by Human Rights First this month, there are currently 800 public reports of rape, kidnapping, torture and other violent attacks against asylum seekers and migrants returned to Mexico under MPP. Among other findings, the report found that: DHS returns vulnerable individuals to Mexico in violation of its policies, including those with serious medical issues, pregnant women with late term pregnancies, LGBTQ persons and Mexican nationals; asylum seekers who miss MPP court hearings because of kidnappings are being ordered deported; and, despite claims by DHS that returned asylum seekers in MPP are safe in migrant shelters in Mexico, many are homeless and all are potential targets for kidnapping, rape, robbery and assault.

“Asylum seekers are often targeted by cartels or kidnapped because there’s an assumption they have access to money since they were able to get to the U.S. border. There’s a very real physical safety issue for the families who are there, and it’s extremely difficult for them to obtain legal representation because of the time and resources it takes for lawyers to cross the border and otherwise communicate with clients trapped in Mexico, and because of the very real risks present to them and their clients when they meet,” Paoletti adds.

The team of lawyers and law students at Penn Law and the Transnational Legal Clinic, and the University of Texas School Law Immigration Clinic are hoping this filing will inspire the U.S. and Mexico to take their responsibilities to the international community seriously by ceasing MPP and all other policies and practices that violate U.S. asylum, immigration and human rights laws.