Remain in Mexico: Fifth Circuit Upholds a Deadly Program 

FOR IMMEDIATE RELEASE: December 15, 2021

CONTACT: Bilal Askaryar | | 646-899-9722


Remain in Mexico: Fifth Circuit Upholds a Deadly Program 

Decision Will Return Families to Danger

Washington — In response to the Court of Appeals for the Fifth Circuit decision issued late Monday night that upheld a lower court injunction on reinstatement of the Remain in Mexico (RMX) policy – dubbed the “Migrant Protection Protocol” (MPP) by the Trump administration – legal experts, human rights advocates, and people impacted by the cruel program responded:


“The 5th circuit ruling on MPP was radical in its sweep, stunning in its mischaracterization of the law, and depressingly predictable as a way station on the anti-immigrant judicial pipeline. From Ken Paxton to Texas judges to the 5th circuit court, pro-Trump conservatives have put their thumbs on the scale to advance Trump policies and conservative political goals under the guise of the law. Unless the White House and Democrats on Capitol Hill institute changes into the federal judiciary, this is our future on immigration and other progressive issues,” said David Leopold, legal advisor to America’s Voice, Chair of Immigration at Ulmer & Berne and former President of the American Immigration Lawyers Association.


“Yesterday’s federal appeals court decision reinstating the Migrant Protection Protocols is deeply disappointing,” said Joan Rosenhauer, Executive Director, Jesuit Refugee Service/USA. “We have seen first-hand the impact this harmful policy has had on the lives of asylum seekers lawfully petitioning for protection. We urge the Biden Administration to do everything in its power to reverse this policy and call on the courts to uphold long-standing rights and protections for those seeking safety in the U.S.”


“This court ruling is a terrible blow for human rights and the rule of law,” said Andrew Geibel, Policy Counsel at HIAS. “The Remain in Mexico program denied thousands of people a fair chance at asylum by putting them in danger and making legal representation a distant dream. HIAS saw countless individuals who suffered persecution or violence as a direct result of this program. Yet this court decision threatens to make the program and its abuses permanent. The administration must use every tool at its disposal to legally re-end the program.”


“IRAP is alarmed by the 5th Circuit’s deeply flawed and cruel decision to block the Biden administration from terminating MPP,” said Jennifer Babaie, U.S Southern Border Program Director at the International Refugee Assistance Project (IRAP). “The decision distorted basic facts, ignored crucial evidence, and will actively put migrants in harm’s way. The Biden administration must continue its efforts to terminate MPP and restore the U.S.-Mexico border to a place where asylum seekers can seek refuge, as is their right under the law.”

“The direct harm that the Remain in Mexico program inflicts upon families and individuals seeking safety is heartbreakingly clear,” said Karen Tumlin, Founder and Director of Justice Action Center. “Yesterday’s Fifth Circuit ruling makes a mockery of our law, is an affront to human dignity, and will be directly responsible for human suffering and loss of life. The Biden Administration must continue to seek an end to this shameful, life-threatening program by any and all available legal means.”

“The Fifth Circuit’s decision is as cruel as it is flawed. Repeatedly, faith communities have called the restart and expansion of the so-called Migrant Protection Protocols unconscionable. To state that this decision will cost lives is not exaggeration, but near fact. Thousands have already been victimized by this cruel and inhumane program, forced to exist in perilous circumstances or returned to the very danger they fled in the first place,” said Meredith Owen, Director of Policy and Advocacy at CWS. “With both Title 42 and MPP in place, mothers, fathers and their children will be put at risk in Mexico, and thousands of Haitians will be expelled back to Haiti, despite widespread unrest and crisis in that country. The politics of exclusion and marginalization that this ill-conceived program was created under should not dictate a U.S. immigration policy. The Biden administration must do everything in its power to fully restore asylum protections and welcome people seeking refuge.”

“Last night’s Fifth Circuit ruling was an unsurprising yet deeply disturbing blow to the rule of law.  The ‘Remain in Mexico’ policy was a humanitarian disaster when it was invented and implemented by the Trump administration, and it is a humanitarian disaster now.  People subjected to the Biden administration’s version of Remain in Mexico over the last week were treated inhumanely, returned to a place where their safety is in jeopardy and deprived of meaningful access to counsel, as Human Rights First’s research team observed and documented,” said Senior Director of Refugee Protection at Human Rights First Eleanor Acer.

“The Fifth Circuit’s decision twists the facts and undermines rule of law,” said Blaine Bookey, Legal Director of the Center for Gender & Refugee Studies and co-counsel in Innovation Law Lab v. Mayorkas, challenging the legality of MPP. “MPP was a humanitarian catastrophe designed to deprive asylum seekers of their rights and subject them to grievous harm in Mexico. The program resulted in untold suffering and made a mockery of our country’s laws and treaty commitments. We urge the Biden administration to do everything in its power to end MPP for good and reinstate a safe and fair asylum process at the border. Lives depend on it.”

“The reinstatement of MPP will have devastating human consequences,” said Lisa Parisio, Director of Advocacy at the Catholic Legal Immigration Network, Inc., or CLINIC. “It is a proven certainty. The Biden administration must reverse the course it has taken so far and respond to the Fifth Circuit’s decision by standing for the rights and dignity of asylum seekers and defending U.S. and international law.”

“Detention and return should never be default measures to respond to the deep humanitarian protection needs at the border, as this flawed court ruling suggests”, said Olga Byrne, Director of Immigration for the International Rescue Committee. “The return of MPP will ultimately hurt asylum seekers by impeding their legal right to seek safety in the United States and forcing them back into potentially dangerous conditions. We urge the Biden Administration to live up to international obligations and their prior commitments by working to end MPP once and for all and instead work with welcoming communities to implement a safe and dignified system to receive asylum seekers.”

Sergio Gonzalez, Executive Director of the Immigration Hub said, “The 5th Circuit’s Remain in Mexico (MPP) decision has enormous human consequences for the thousands of asylum seekers who will be forced into dangerous locations while they await adjudication of their claims. The court declared that the only alternative to jail for a person awaiting a decision on their asylum application is to be forced into extremely dangerous locations in Mexico. There is no basis in law to compel this ‘Sophie’s choice’, it ignores Mexico’s right to determine how and whether to cooperate with the U.S. on Mexican territory, and it explicitly undermines the right to seek asylum, by design.The Biden administration should heed the alarm bells and explore every available means to protect the credibility of the court and the dignity of migrants and put an end, once and for all, to the cruel Remain in Mexico policy.”

“Trump may be out of office, but his political appointees continue to do his bidding throughout our judicial system to enact a blatantly anti-immigrant agenda. Make no mistake, the Fifth Circut’s decision to reject President Biden’s attempt to end the Migrant Protection Protocols program is grounded in racism and xenophobia, not legal precedent,” said Tami Goodlette, Director of Litigation at the Refugee and Immigrant Center for Education and Legal Services (RAICES). “We expect nothing different from the Trump and Bush-appointed judges, including one who is Governor Abbott’s former attorney. The so-called Migrant Protection Protocols are fundamentally unjust, and are being used as an illegal deterrent to turn the border – a place where people can legally seek asylum – into a site rampant with human rights crises and abuses. The Biden administration must forcefully push back against this Trump-era legacy, which will hurt our communities for years to come by stripping away the basic human right to seek asylum and refuge at our borders.”


“Upholding dangerous policies from the Trump Administration is not only to innocent asylum-seeking families but also to our proud history as a nation of immigrants. We urge federal agencies to dismantle this harmful policy and instead put in place fair, compassionate, humane systems to process vulnerable mothers and children. The vast majority of asylum-seekers are women and children who are in search of safety. They have made difficult decisions to leave behind the only place they know and take a dangerous journey to seek asylum. Righting the terribly wrong asylum and immigration policies the Trump Administration imposed is a high priority for America’s moms,” said Claudia Tristán, immigration campaign director for MomsRising.


The Fifth Circuit’s decision comes after #WelcomeWithDignity partners delivered more than 200,000 signatures demanding President Biden take immediate action to restore the right to seek asylum by reversing Title 42 and stopping the reimplementation of ‘Remain in Mexico.’ Our previous statement on the administration’s expansion of the deadly program is available here.


Join the movement and sign our pledge to #WelcomeWithDignity.

The Welcome with Dignity Campaign is composed of more than 95 national and regional organizations committed to transforming the way the United States receives and protects people forced to flee their homes to ensure they are treated humanely and fairly. To learn more and join our campaign visit: