Asylum officers union slams Remain in Mexico’s return, says policy ‘inconsistent with federal law’

Mirroring the widespread concerns from immigrant and human rights advocates, AFGE said that the policy, officially known as Migrant Protection Protocols (MPP), endangers asylum-seekers and their families by “leaving them at the mercy of violent cartels and corrupt officials in Mexico,” denies them “meaningful access” to legal representation, and deters vulnerable people from seeking asylum, “a gross perversion of a fundamental human right under international law.”

“Furthermore, reimplementing MPP will divert asylum officers from their primary protection work, including credible fear screenings and affirmative asylum adjudications,” AFGE continued.

This is not the first time that the union has condemned the policy. During its initial implementation by the previous administration, AFGE Local 1924 President Michael Knowles called Remain in Mexico “illegal,” “immoral,” and “the basis for human rights abuses on behalf of our nation” during a House hearing. He told legislators he didn’t “know a single asylum officer in the country” who believed the policy was just. At least one former officer, Doug Stephens, very publicly resigned rather than help carry out MPP, saying “you’re literally sending people back to be raped and killed.”

“Across the country, asylum officers are calling in sick, requesting transfers, retiring earlier than planned and quitting, all to resist this and other Trump administration immigration policies that they view as illegal, according to Stephens, as well as other asylum officers and officials,” The Los Angeles Times reported at the time.

“Our union calls on the Biden administration, Congress, and the courts to denounce MPP as inconsistent with federal law and U.S. treaty obligations and do everything on their power to end this fatally deficient, abhorrent program once and for all,” AFGE said. The union further called on the Biden administration to stop enforcing a second anti-asylum policy implemented by the previous administration. That policy, Title 42, has used the pandemic as an excuse to quickly deport asylum-seekers in violation of their rights. The union said that both policies represent “a near-complete shutdown of our asylum system at the southern border.”


Under a right-wing judge’s ruling this past August, Remain in Mexico’s return hinged on Mexico’s cooperation. While that decision said the Biden administration would not violate the court order if it showed it had engaged in “good faith” efforts to reinstate the policy, the Biden administration announced this week that not only had it made an agreement with the Mexican government, it expanded the policy to an even wider scope. 

“The Biden administration’s choice to expand Remain in Mexico to everyone from the Western Hemisphere—including Haitians—makes the program even broader than it ever was under the Trump administration,” tweeted American Immigration Council policy counsel Aaron Reichlin-Melnick. He wrote “this is actively worse than what the Trump administration did, where originally it was just nationals of Spanish-speaking countries, and then later expanded to Brazilians.”

The American Civil Liberties Union (ACLU) successfully sued the previous administration over the policy. CBS News reports the group may again launch legal action over the policy, this time against the Biden administration. The organization called the policy “illegal” and “cruel” in a statement received by Daily Kos on Thursday.

“Secretary Mayorkas himself recently acknowledged that MPP is inherently flawed and cannot be fixed, and that its human costs are substantial and unjustifiable,” ACLU Immigrants’ Rights Project’s Judy Rabinovitz said. “Although the Biden administration may claim it has no choice but to restart MPP, there is no question that it has a choice to end Title 42, which causes many of the same harms, and yet it has chosen to continue and even double down on that cruel and unlawful policy that turns people away at the border under the guise of public health. It is imperative that that administration do everything within its power to bring both policies to a complete end.” 

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