News sources have widely reported that beginning in 2019, U.S. Customs and Border Protection (CBP) began expelling from the United States immigrant women who recently gave birth, as well as their U.S. citizen infants. These actions were part of the former administration’s “zero tolerance” policy, which, among other things, intentionally separated thousands of families at the border. Regardless of any right to asylum, these women were expelled from the country days after giving birth. Even though their U.S-born children would have been U.S. citizens, many mothers were not even given birth certificates for their children. Making matters worse, these women were often forced into dangerous conditions, having to sleep in shelters or on the streets in Mexico with their newborns.
Since my trip to the U.S./Mexico border last summer, the situation for families seeking asylum has only become more challenging, especially in light of the Administration’s new “Remain in Mexico” policy. This week, I am in Mexico along with Proskauer colleagues, Valarie McPherson, special immigration counsel, and Savannah Sosa, a project assistant. We are providing asylum presentations and individual consultations in partnership with Institute for Women in Migration, IMUMI (www.imumi.org).
The new policy raises a number of questions, but first some background.
The Remain in Mexico Policy
On December 20, 2018, the Administration announced that it would begin implementing a “Remain in Mexico” policy – officially dubbed the Migrant Protection Protocols (MPP) – which requires asylum-seekers from Central America at the southern border to wait in Mexico for the duration of their U.S. immigration proceedings. This marks a fundamental shift in asylum policy because, until now, asylum-seekers who lack valid entry documentation generally have been placed in expedited removal proceedings. Applicants who passed a credible fear interview were then allowed to remain in the U.S., pending immigration court proceedings.