Migrant Protection Protocols: Implementation and Consequences for Asylum Seekers in Mexico, PRP 218




Leutert, Stephanie

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LBJ School of Public Affairs


In November 2018, the United States and Mexico negotiated the Migrant Protection Protocols (MPP). Before MPP, asylum seekers were allowed to wait in the United States during their asylum cases. However, with MPP, asylum seekers are now forced to wait in Mexican border cities as their cases move through the U.S. immigration system. In January 2019, U.S. officials began to implement MPP in San Diego and then extended the program across the rest of the border. As of April 2020, more than 64,000 asylum seekers had been returned to Mexico as part of the program. The majority of the asylum seekers returned to Mexico under MPP are from the Northern Triangle of Central America, although individuals from other nationalities have also been put in the program. As of March 2020, the highest number of MPP returnees were from Honduras, accounting for 35 percent of individuals in the program. This was followed by asylum seekers from Guatemala (24 percent), Cuba (12.7 percent), and El Salvador (12.5 percent). U.S. Customs and Border Protection (CBP) officers have exempted some groups from MPP, including unaccompanied minors, Mexican citizens, non-Spanish speakers (although Brazilians were eventually included), and asylum seekers in certain “special circumstances.” However, CBP officers have discretion regarding who is subject to the program, and these exemptions have not been consistently implemented. Additionally, CBP officers have also included members of “highrisk populations” in MPP, such as pregnant women, LGBTQ+ individuals, minors, and people who are disabled. Once asylum seekers are returned to Mexico, they face various challenges. Although the Mexican Migratory Law of 2011 guarantees asylum seekers the right to healthcare and education in Mexico, it can be difficult to access these services. Asylum seekers are also responsible for acquiring their own housing, even though they often have few resources. Further, they must navigate these situations while at risk of violence from criminal organizations or predatory actors. Criminal groups often target asylum seekers because they have no local ties or community and because they often have friends and family in the United States who can pay their ransom. This report recommends that MPP be immediately discontinued. However, understanding that this may be difficult in the short term, this report provides additional recommendations to address the most egregious conditions under MPP.These include improving safety for asylum seekers, excluding at-risk populations, and providing asylum seekers with greater access to due process and legal representation.



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