New York, NY, August 25, 2021 — The International Rescue Committee (IRC) responds today to the U.S. Supreme Court decision to require the U.S. Government to restart implementation of the previous Administration’s disastrous and harmful ‘Remain in Mexico’ policy, also known as the Migrant Protection Protocols (MPP) while litigation continues.
MPP will potentially impact tens of thousands of asylum-seekers who will also be sent back to wait out their claim for months for a chance to meet with a U.S. judge, with little to no access in Mexico to U.S. legal support outside of what overstretched civil society organizations can provide. The IRC’s teams in the field have seen the difficult conditions that 70,000 asylum-seekers had to endure for a chance to find safe haven.
Olga Byrne, Director of Immigration for the IRC said:
“The U.S. Supreme Court decision is the latest chapter of disastrous and harmful policies in the American asylum system. People fleeing persecution and conflict to seek safety at the U.S. border must be protected—instead this policy if implemented would worsen the growing insecurity that asylum-seekers have to endure in border towns along Mexico.
“MPP had sent 70K asylum seekers back to danger during the previous administration. This adds to recent policy decisions that block vulnerable people’s right to seek protection within U.S. territory, including continuation of Title 42 and flying expelled asylum seekers away from the border. This only adds to the sense of chaos and confusion for people at the border in times when humanitarian needs are increasing, and services in Mexico are already overloaded.
“The U.S. must swiftly and, with finality, end this illegal program and close this dark chapter in American history. In replacement, it must invest in dignified welcome and reception, while addressing root drivers of migration in Latin America and working with regional governments to offer protection and alternatives for the most vulnerable people. Seeking asylum is legal. We call for the U.S. to end harmful immigration policies.”
The IRC operates in Latin America across the arc of crisis, delivering protection services and humanitarian assistance to people on the move, refugees, asylum seekers, and returnees. The teams on the ground have seen living conditions in the region worsening, including in northern Central America, where in 2020 alone more than 1.4 million people were forced to leave their homes due to conflict and climate change. At the same time, as expulsions continued--like the more than 733,000 that took place between March 2020 and April 2021--people encountered ongoing violence and limited resources and services to meet their most basic needs.
Meghan Lopez, the IRC’s Regional Vice President for Latin America, said:
“In times when humanitarian needs are particularly increasing, with the effects of the pandemic, multiple natural disasters, and ongoing conflict, by expelling asylum seekers, the United States is instituting a policy of sending people back to the violence and persecution that they sought refuge from in the first place.
“We call for the U.S. government to rescind harmful policies like MPP and Title 42, and to deliver instead a comprehensive response to address the humanitarian crises in Latin America. Investments and collaboration with all sectors, including INGOs are required to offer protection and alternatives for people in the most vulnerable situations, including addressing the root drivers of migration—a strategy the IRC welcomes. Additionally, asylum systems and policies must be strengthened in countries like Mexico, that under specific circumstances might be an alternative for some people.”
The IRC’s work along the Mexican northern border, especially with gender-based prevention and attention programs for women, girls, and LGBTQ+ people demonstrates that many cities where people are returned are not safe for asylum-seekers to wait out their claims in court. Policies like MPP have left asylum-seekers subject to significant security, health, and protection risks, often for months—exposing them to serious threats to their safety, as well as considerable challenges in accessing legal representation or even basic logistical information about how to attend their court hearings in the US. Along with lack of services, this leaves women, often with young children, at particular risk. No matter where asylum-seekers get blocked or are forced to wait along the border, they remain highly vulnerable in Mexico to the same type of exploitation, abuse and targeted violence that forced them to flee in the first place.
The IRC will work with partners to ensure MPP-impacted families and individuals are given every chance possible to be one step closer to having a fair chance at having their asylum claims heard. The IRC continues to call on the U.S. Congress to pass legislation, like the Refugee Protection Act, that would strengthen and expand protections for those in need of safe haven.
The International Rescue Committee responds to the world’s worst humanitarian crises, helping to restore health, safety, education, economic wellbeing, and power to people devastated by conflict and disaster. Founded in 1933 at the call of Albert Einstein, the IRC is at work in over 40 countries and over 20 U.S. cities helping people to survive, reclaim control of their future, and strengthen their communities. Learn more at www.rescue.org and follow the IRC on Twitter & Facebook.