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US bishops reiterate call for end to migrant protection protocols

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The Senior Migration Bishop of the American Bishops’ Conference (USCCB) expresses concern over the re-application of the “Stay in Mexico” policy, the border processing program introduced by the Trump administration to deter migrants from reach the southern border of the United States. On December 2, the Department of Homeland Security (DHS) announced that the Migrant Protection Protocols (MPP) would resume on December 6 following a new agreement with Mexico.

By Lisa Zengarini

The bishops of the United States strongly urge the Biden administration to take whatever steps are necessary to end the Migrant Protection Protocols (MPPs) and replace them with an approach respectful of human dignity. The call came in the wake of the controversial policy reimplementation that began on December 6.

The MPP, also known as “Stay in Mexico,” was introduced in January 2019 by the Trump administration in an attempt to deter migrants from reaching the southern border of the United States. The program allows US authorities to return undocumented migrants, many of whom are asylum seekers, to Mexico to await the end of their proceedings in US immigration courts.

The new agreement with Mexico

President Jo Biden announced his suspension on his first day in office, and on January 20, 2021, the Department of Homeland Security (DHS) officially ended it. However, a subsequent decision of a federal district court overturned the provision. While appealing the ruling, the Biden administration struck a deal with the Mexican government to reimplement the program as established by the court, with some tweaks to improve it.

The reimplementation took effect Monday at a border post and will eventually be rolled out across the entire southwest border. The new version extends eligibility for MPP registration to migrants from all countries in the Western Hemisphere. In the latest iteration, Mexico only accepted migrants from Spanish-speaking countries and Brazil, which notably excluded Haitian migrants, thousands of whom were forcibly deported from the Texas border in late September by agents of the United States. US border patrols.

In addition, MPP candidates will be able to receive a COVID-19 vaccine so that they can return to the United States to attend their hearings. Additionally, the United States has pledged to close individual MPP cases within six months, providing migrants with better access to legal aid and more information about their situation. DHS has also promised to exempt certain categories of vulnerable people from “Staying in Mexico”.

Use of Title 42 to expel asylum seekers

These changes are viewed as unsatisfactory by US bishops who have reiterated their firm opposition to the policy as well as the continued use of Title 42 of the US Code to deport asylum seekers and other vulnerable migrants, bypassing due process. normal immigration and bypassing deadlines. process protections. § 265 of the Code, containing regulations to prevent the introduction, transmission and spread of communicable diseases from foreign countries, was applied by the Trump administration after the outbreak of the COVID-19 pandemic and continues to ‘be applied to migrants by the Biden administration.

Gaps in the program

“Unfortunately, the Administration’s attempts to make this program more humane – however well intentioned they may be – will not remedy its inherent flaws, nor will it alleviate its inevitable toll in human lives”, Bishop Mario E. Dorsonville, Chairman of the Migration Committee. of the American Bishops’ Conference wrote in a statement. “We are particularly concerned that this will perpetuate the current tragedy of family separation, as many fathers and mothers are likely to feel compelled to separate from their children in a desperate attempt to ensure their safety.”

Human solutions needed

Recalling Pope Francis’ call to leaders to find humane solutions for migrants on the first Sunday of Advent, the bishops therefore renewed their call to the US government “to take all necessary measures to end the MPP and replace it. through an approach that respects human dignity, illustrates our national values, upholds the rule of law and embraces Christ’s call to welcome the newcomer.

Some 68,000 MPP candidates

During the MPP’s two-year lifespan, some 68,000 migrants seeking protection were forced to remain in Mexico pending their hearings in the US immigration court. Over 32,000 have been returned, nearly 9,000 have had their cases closed and only 723 have been granted asylum or other immigration assistance. The other 27,000 still had cases pending in the US immigration court when the Biden administration announced the suspension of the MPP in January 2021. Many migrants whose cases were pending had not had a hearing since. at least March 2020, when the MPP hearings were suspended due to the COVID-19 pandemic.