Human Rights First and Scores of NGOs and Authorized Clinics File Amicus Transient In Assist of Overturning “Stay in Mexico” Coverage

WASHINGTON – Human Rights First, the National Immigration Law Center (“NILC”) and Sidley Austin LLP filed an amicus curiae – friend of the court – with the US Supreme Court today in a case that challenged the so-called Migrant Protection Protocols (“MPP”) or “Stay in Mexico” policy. The Trump administration used MPP to force thousands of asylum seekers and migrants from Cuba, El Salvador, Guatemala, Honduras, Nicaragua, Venezuela and other countries to await their hearings in the US immigration court in Mexico at risk.

The Amicus Brief, filed in the Wolf v Innovation Law Lab case, aims to illustrate the terrible harm inflicted on people exposed to MPP. 108 non-governmental organizations and legal clinics sign the order.

“The return to Mexico of people seeking safety in the US under the MPP is a violation of US law and contractual obligations towards refugees. Our research has consistently shown that people who have returned to Mexico from the Trump administration face horrific violence while waiting for the opportunity to apply for humanitarian protection in the US, “he said Kennji Kizuka, Senior Refugee Protection Researcher at Human Rights First. “Every day this dangerous, illegal policy remains in place, the US government puts more lives at risk.”

“The tragedy the Trump administration has so cruelly wrought against vulnerable refugees, including thousands of young children, cannot be reversed, but it can be stopped,” he said Lisa Graybill, Legal Director of the National Immigration Law Center. “We are confident that both the Supreme Court and the Biden government will take the necessary steps to bring compliance with the law and respect for fundamental humanity back into our system. Every asylum seeker deserves the fair day in court that MPP took away from them. “

As described in the letter, the Trump administration implemented MPP with full knowledge that the policy would put the people of Mexico in extreme danger. Human Rights First followed at least 1,314 public reports of murder, torture, rape, kidnapping, and other violent attacks against people returning to Mexico under the MPP. These reports are likely just the tip of the iceberg, given the limited number of asylum seekers interviewed by lawyers, journalists and human rights researchers. In the face of this relentless violence, many MPP refugees have submitted their applications for US protection as short documents.

MPP also makes it nearly impossible for asylum seekers who have returned to Mexico as part of the policy to find a U.S. immigration attorney. Without legal assistance, most MPP victims are denied protection for US refugees. In fact, MPP applicants represented by an attorney are almost twelve times more likely to receive relief than applicants without an attorney. As the brief notes show, 97 percent of MPP people whose cases were resolved did not have a lawyer. Overall, of the more than 70,000 migrants and asylum seekers who have been admitted to MPP since its introduction, only 523 people – less than 1 percent – have been relieved.

The “Stay in Mexico” policy violates US law and contractual obligations to protect refugees from return to harm and to provide a meaningful opportunity for those fleeing persecution and torture to seek humanitarian protection in the US.

The letter contains the experiences of people who have been harmed again as a result of MPP in Mexico, including:

  • A 35-year-old Salvadoran asylum seeker was kidnapped, stabbed and dismembered after US border officials used MPP to deport him, his wife and two young children to Tijuana. Over the past seven months, he and his family had repeatedly told US officials that they were not safe in Tijuana – to no avail.
  • A nine-year-old South American disabled girl and her mother were abducted, raped and brutalized after returning to Mexico under MPP, although the girl should have been exempted from policy because of her disability. The mother recounted the nightmare they had suffered over the next 13 days: “[t]Hey, tied my daughter in a sheet so she couldn’t move. They hit us repeatedly. . . raped us and masturbated in front of us. “
  • A Cuban woman sent to Mexico under MPP was kidnapped and raped. Her kidnappers told her that “this is what we are doing to the Cubans here.”
  • Ernesto, a Guatemalan asylum seeker, was returned to Mexico under MPP in July 2019. In Mexico, he was repeatedly blackmailed and attacked by cartel members and targeted for his sexual orientation, for which he had also been persecuted in Guatemala. He now lives in constant fear of the cartel. “I know these people can come back anytime and I may not have enough money to pay them,” he said.

Since MPP was founded in January 2019, Human Rights First has tracked and documented violence against asylum seekers who returned to Mexico as part of the MPP using a series of reports and the “Delivered to Danger” initiative with other immigration and human rights organizations. Human rights First lawyers to represent returnees under the MPP, including securing the first grant of asylum under the program, have seen the major obstacles to effective representation created by policies for the few asylum seekers in the MPP that manage to find lawyers. Human Rights First was also earlier ruled as an amicus in the United States Court of Appeals for the ninth circuit in the summer of 2019. Human Rights First and other sister organizations have urged the new Biden government to end the MPP as soon as possible, given its illegality and the dangers posed to refugees.

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