‘Stay in Mexico’ trial resumes

Plastic chairs line the aisles on the seventh floor of a federal court in downtown El Paso, where a group of men from Nicaragua, Venezuela and Cuba make “know your rights” legal presentations before attending your first hearing on Tuesday. I was sitting listening. United States Immigration Court.

It was the second day of El Paso hearings for members of the Migrant Protection Protocol (MPP), the controversial program also known as “Stay in Mexico”, which took place on Monday despite unsuccessful attempts by the Biden administration to end the program. Legal proceedings resumed. ,

First adopted during the Trump administration, the MPP requires migrants and asylum seekers to await their hearing in Mexico’s immigration court.

The program was reinstated at the El Paso port of entry in December after a successful lawsuit by Texas and Missouri, which argued that the program was illegally terminated in early 2021. The United States Supreme Court upheld the decision of a federal court that was in favor. States in August

Immigration hearings under the MPP were suspended from March 2020 due to the COVID-19 pandemic.

The previous iteration of “Stay in Mexico” was criticized by immigrant advocates for denying asylum seekers the right to seek asylum in the United States and widespread human rights abuses on allies in northern Mexican cities. Such as Ciudad Juarez. It has also been criticized for its low rates of legal representation among those enrolled in the program, increasing the barriers to successfully obtaining asylum in the United States.

If the first two days of hearings are any indication, the rate of legal representation on the rebooted show couldn’t be much better, according to Yale Schachter, deputy director for Americas and Europe at humanitarian organization Refugees International.

“The vast majority of people (at El Paso Monday and Tuesday hearings) are not represented,” he said. “And that means most people will complete their own asylum applications or at least represent themselves with help.”

Schachter oversaw both court hearings and is aware of his rights presentations to MPP colleagues in El Paso Court on Monday and Tuesday. El Paso Matters was not allowed to oversee the court hearing this Tuesday, despite providing a fact sheet from the Justice Department, which said that “when judicial space is limited, media representatives are not normally allowed to hold onto the public.” take priority”. A representative from the Executive Office for Immigration Review in court cited COVID-19 capacity limits as the reason for denial of entry.

Schachter noted that of the 82 MPP aides who had hearings on Monday and Tuesday, only five had legal advice.

Increased access to representation, with the stated goal of making the program more human, was one of the changes listed in the program revived by the Biden administration. An additional change was an accelerated schedule for MPP court hearings; A press release from the Department of Homeland Security (DHS), which has generally committed to ending legal proceedings within six months of sending associates to Mexico to await a decision in their case.

DHS Secretary Alejandro Meyercas strongly criticized the program and continued to move towards completing it, even as DHS restarted it in compliance with a court order.

Meyerkas explained his decision to end the MPP program in an October memorandum, saying “MPP had endemic failures, imposed unreasonable human costs, diverted resources and staff from other priority efforts, and irregular migration.” failed to address the root causes of Immigration Affairs did not respond to a request for comment this week on the rate of legal representation among MPP affiliates.

Since the program resumed in December, 217 single adult males have returned to Mexico at the El Paso port of entry. According to data provided by Mexico’s National Institute for Human Rights Migration, 62 percent of those registered are from Nicaragua.

Other nationalities represented among the new MPP allies include Venezuela, Cuba, Ecuador and Colombia.

People from Honduras, El Salvador and Guatemala are currently not being placed in the MPP because they can be expelled under Title 42, a public health law enacted by President Donald Trump at the start of the Covid-19 pandemic in 2020 was and was continued by the President. Joe Biden. MPP currently resumed primarily in the El Paso-Juarez area and resumed last Monday in San Diego. It is to be launched elsewhere on the US-Mexico border in the coming weeks.

Schechter said with court hearings on Monday and Tuesday the MPP allies were all asylum seekers, explaining that when asked if they were afraid to return to their country, they raised their hands to indicate yes.

Schachter explained that the DHS described the MPP as a program for foreign nationals who entered the country without legal documentation, but that the new version appears to be used by those seeking asylum from persecution in their home country. carried out more strictly.

“So the MPP is an asylum program at the moment, it’s not a border program,” he said. “I think it’s a significant difference.”