Institute for Women in Migration

When I volunteered in Mexico last spring with two Proskauer colleagues alongside the Institute for Women in Migration (IMUMI), I witnessed a growing humanitarian crisis. The U.S. “Remain in Mexico” Policy – officially called the Migrant Protection Protocols (MPP) – requires asylum seekers at the southern border to wait in Mexico for the duration of their U.S. immigration proceedings, a requirement that puts thousands of people in danger. A report issued last week by Human Rights First confirms the danger by detailing current conditions faced by the more than 60,000 migrants now waiting in Mexico. In particular, the report finds:

Off a side street in a small town in central Mexico, the shelter entrance was hard to find until we noticed a young family sitting under a tree near a gate with a worn sign welcoming “migrant brothers and sisters.”  We walked through the gate into a dusty courtyard surrounded by makeshift structures in the shadow of a church, where we were greeted warmly by the shelter’s director.  He explained they were currently accommodating approximately 30 migrants from Central America, and that we had just missed 120 others who left to catch the train going north.  The shelter, with a staff of five and several volunteers in and out during the day, has served over 3,000 people so far this year.  This is a substantial increase over last year, and most notably, they are serving an increasing number of families.

We spent last week in Mexico providing asylum presentations and individual consultations in partnership with the Institute for Women in Migration, IMUMI.  The biggest takeaway from our experience was the prevalence of violence.  Everyone described stories of domestic violence or gang violence (or both) in their home countries of Honduras, El Salvador, and Guatemala, and the lack of any protection from government authorities.  Everyone also described the great danger they faced along their journey through Mexico, detailing robberies, assaults and even an attempted kidnapping. 

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.