1. What is Remain in Mexico?
Remain in Mexico, formally known as the Migrant Protections Protocols (MPP), is a border policy that the Trump Administration put in place in 2019. Under the policy, asylum seekers cannot wait for a ruling on their asylum claims while waiting inside the U.S. Instead, those seeking relief at our border are returned to Mexico and only allowed to enter the U.S. for their court hearings.
Immigration court proceedings can take years because there are many thousands more cases than judges to handle them. Nonetheless under Remain in Mexico, individuals seeking asylum must live in Mexico for however long their court case takes.
Due to the constant risk of missing important documents or information if contacted by immigration authorities, many people enrolled in MPP were forced to make an impossible choice: living near the border to be closer to where their case could be heard, or risking automatically losing their asylum case if they missed their hearing. Most have chosen to stay near the border, but Mexican border towns where they’re forced to live are plagued with violence, and have virtually none of the capacity needed to safely house thousands of immigrants at a time. As a result, thousands of individuals enrolled in MPP – including vulnerable children and families – have been forced to suffer in disastrous, inhumane, and lethal conditions.
While the Biden Administration briefly shut down MPP, a Texas federal judge ordered the administration to make good faith efforts to reinstate the program until it could show that it had properly terminated the program and had detention space to detain all asylum seekers. This second iteration of Remain in Mexico began in December 2021, after the Biden Administration and the government of Mexico agreed to reimplement the program while establishing various measures to improve people’s living conditions. These included exemptions for vulnerable individuals, expanded protections during initial enrollment, and the creation of shelters across the border. Still, concerns continue over shelters’ adequacy in ensuring immigrants’ access to legal aid, whether the exemptions are being properly applied, and over immigrants’ safety writ large.