Biden Administration fails to outline blueprint for ending Remain in Mexico

Washington, D.C. — Late in the evening on Wednesday, September 15, the Biden administration submitted the first monthly status report on steps they have taken to fulfill the district court’s order to enforce and implement the “Remain in Mexico” policy “in good faith.”  The #WelcomeWithDignity campaign issued the following statement in light of the Biden administration’s continued failure to publicly commit to issuing a new memo aimed at terminating the program for good.

“There is no other just, humane, or moral step forward for the Biden administration to take other than issuing a new memo that will end Remain in Mexico, as the President pledged on the campaign trail. To subject fellow human beings to additional pain, suffering, and trauma while fleeing violence is unconscionable,” said Justice Action Center founder and director Karen Tumlin. “If decisive action is not taken to wind down MPP, we will hold the Biden administration accountable for cowing to partisan pressure and taking steps to ultimately uphold this inhumane policy, rather than to dismantle it for good. The immigrant rights movement remains committed to building a dignified and just future for all.”

“MPP was a human rights catastrophe. Restarting it in any form or fashion would be a human rights catastrophe,” said Frank Sharry, Executive Director of America’s Voice. “The Biden administration should follow through on their promise to shut down MPP by submitting a new memo detailing the rationale for shutting it down, and it should resist efforts by Trump judges and Trumpian Republicans to force them to do what the American people rejected in 2020.”

“The xenophobic ‘Remain in Mexico’ program is fundamentally incompatible with the fair and humane asylum system that President Biden promised to build,” said Noah Gottschalk, Oxfam America’s Global Policy Lead. “This policy left tens of thousands of people fleeing for their lives in precarious and dangerous situations that have caused further harm. The administration was right to terminate the ‘Remain in Mexico’ program in the first place, and needs to show moral and legal leadership by finally putting an end to it once and for all.”

“By failing to take immediate, concrete steps to terminate the Remain in Mexico policy, the administration has not lived up to President Biden’s promise to restore full access to asylum and build a 21st immigration system that values our collective humanity and dignity,” said Marielena Hincapié, executive director of the National Immigration Law Center. “The Remain in Mexico policy was a centerpiece of Donald Trump’s cruel, anti-immigrant agenda and put thousands of people seeking safety in grave danger. Choosing any course short of terminating this unlawful policy would be a capitulation to an emerging conservative political playbook being used to imperil President Biden’s entire progressive agenda. This is a key moment for President Biden to lead with conviction, issue a new termination memo, and restart asylum processing at the southern border. There is no room for Remain in Mexico – or any policy like it – in a country that strives to be a beacon of hope for those seeking safety and freedom.”

“There is no such thing as a more humane version of a program that has directly led to such extreme pain and suffering. The decision to restart the Remain in Mexico policy will directly lead to the loss of human lives. That is what the Biden administration is choosing. Instead of doing what is right, they are taking the path of least resistance at the expense of some of the most vulnerable human beings amongst us,” said Lindsay Toczylowski, executive director and co-founder, Immigrants Defenders Law Center.

“If the Biden administration is still serious about following through on its campaign promise to end the disastrous Remain in Mexico Program, it should commit to re-terminating the program with a fuller explanation, the obvious pathway laid down by the Supreme Court,” said Jonathan Blazer, Director of Border Strategies at the American Civil Liberties Union.

“Remain in Mexico was nothing short of disastrous, and the Biden administration promised to end it,” said Chelsea Sachau, Equal Justice Works Fellow at the Florence Immigrant & Refugee Rights Project. “The administration has a moral and legal obligation to recognize the rights of asylum seekers by welcoming them to the U.S. and by building back a fair, equitable, and swift asylum process – MPP tent courts are the antithesis of due process. The administration could end the policy once and for all by issuing a new termination memorandum; instead, it cowers behind the courts as a cover to return to inhumane, unlawful, and downright dangerous anti-immigrant policies.”

Jewish Activists for Immigration Justice of Western Massachusetts (JAIJ) unequivocally condemns the failure of President Biden to keep his campaign promise to end the despicable Trump-era MPP protocol that has meant so much cruelty, heartache, and risk to those who fled for their lives, leaving everything they had, only to be trapped in Mexico, at risk of kidnapping and worse. In the few weeks since the Supreme Court’s ruling, Administration lawyers have had ample time to refresh their arguments, to cite law and precedent and demonstrate the damage this policy designed to inflict maximum cruelty and suffering, has created. It is immoral to embrace this policy simply because it’s more convenient than fighting it. As Jews, members of JAIJ remember that our own people were persecuted just a few generations back–and that the US sealed its borders to thousands of Jews attempting to escape that terror, many of whom perished. After the Holocaust, the Jewish community came together to say “Never Again!” We broaden this to say “Never Again Para Nadie”–never again should ANYONE be denied access to safety.

“The Biden administration rightfully ended the illegal and inhumane Remain in Mexico program on the President’s first day in office, and recent court orders should not preclude the administration from issuing a new memo to end the program,” said Carmen Maria Rey, U.S. Legal Services Director at the International Refugee Assistance Project (IRAP). “The reinstatement of a program that put thousands of migrants in harm’s way cannot be allowed to stand in an administration that campaigned on the promise of welcoming migrants and respecting their human rights.”

“The decades-long, bipartisan U.S. immigration strategy of ‘deterrence by cruelty’ — which has brought us such abominations as border walls, family separations, criminalization of people in need, and the Migrant ‘Protection” Protocols — has never made our nation more secure,” said Sarah Towle, Leadership Team of Witness at the Border. “Deterrence by cruelty has emboldened organized crime on both sides of the border; corrupted our border patrols and communities; diverted tax-payer dollars that might have aided community infrastructure and benefited local economies to abusive detention and deportation practices. It has trapped the US in an ever-increasing web of destruction that has ruined untold numbers of lives. If the Biden administration truly wishes to Build Back Better, to restore the soul of our nation, let it begin with pushing back hard against the resumption of the Migrant ‘Protection’ Protocols, which never protected anyone at all.”

“MPP was a human rights and due process disaster and a stain on the moral fabric of this country,” said Kate Jastram, Policy and Advocacy Director at the Center for Gender & Refugee Studies (CGRS). “It trapped thousands of families and children in perilous conditions, fueling violence and chaos at the border. Ending the policy was a day one promise by President Biden, and this litigation does not preclude the administration from doing everything in its power to fulfill that promise. The administration has had ample time to develop a new strategy to end MPP and issue a new termination memo, as our organizations have repeatedly implored it to do.”

“MPP was a fundamentally flawed due process and human rights disaster that intentionally and cruelly subjected thousands of people to harm by forcibly returning them to wait in dangerous conditions in Mexico. There is no amount of logistical planning or preparation that can ‘safely operationalize’ MPP or make it humane or rights-respecting. The Biden administration was right to end MPP on its first day in office and must do so again by immediately issuing a new memo to terminate MPP once and for all,” said Ursela Ojeda, policy advisor for the Migrant Rights and Justice Program at the Women’s Refugee Commission.

“The Biden Administration should be making good faith efforts to defend justice and humanity for all, not taking our country back to the anti-immigrant days of Trump policy,” said Stephen Manning, Executive Director of Innovation Law Lab. “The Remain in Mexico program must be ended once and for all, and a safe and humane asylum system must be established.”

“We are very disappointed that the Biden administration is considering re-implementing the Remain in Mexico Policy, which we know to be extremely detrimental to asylum-seeking families and children.” said Santiago Mueckay, Manager of Federal Government Relations at Save the Children. “We urge the administration to quickly issue a new memo to officially end this harmful policy. The reinstatement of MPP would not only subject children and families to unnecessary violence and abuse in Mexico, but it would also be a worrisome step backward in our fight for a more humane and just asylum-system. Seeking asylum is not a crime. As a country, we must do better to protect children and families seeking refuge within our borders.”

“The Migrant Protection Protocols forced more than 70,000 migrants to wait in deadly conditions while trying to apply for immigration status and asylum in the United States. Today’s status report from the Biden administration does nothing to end this unlawful and deadly program and fails to consider the United States’ obligation to help those at our borders seeking safety,” said National Immigrant Justice Center Senior Policy Analyst, Azadeh Erfani. “The National Immigrant Justice Center witnessed firsthand the atrocities of this program under the Trump administration; there is no version of MPP that would not resurrect the horrors of this Trump program. NIJC calls on the Biden administration to uphold its promise to end MPP by issuing a new termination memo based on the extensive record of atrocities it has produced and establish an asylum system based not on punishment but on protection.”

“Today’s status report is deeply disappointing and will continue to put lives in jeopardy and threaten the well-being of countless people who are at risk of unnecessary harm,” said Meredith Owen, Director of Policy and Advocacy at Church World Service. “The administration should immediately issue a new memo terminating the unlawful and immoral ‘Remain in Mexico’ policy. Beyond that, living out our moral leadership requires an end to all anti-asylum policies, such as unlawful ‘Title 42’ expulsions. We must envision a system that increases equity, particularly for Black asylum seekers and migrants, and upholds the dignity of all people.”