Advocates for children in immigration proceedings have been working with children and youth who have experienced the detrimental impact of the Migrant Protections Protocol (MPP) also known as the “Remain in Mexico” program. Reports show the dangers of the MPP program and the harms individuals have endured to their physical and psychological health and wellbeing as a result of the program. Additionally, advocates are battling the procedural challenges and hurdles children affected by MPP must face, whether their MPP case is ongoing or if they have a final order of removal from a proceeding while in MPP.
Unaccompanied Children’s Rights Violated
The William Wilberforce Trafficking Victims Protection Reauthorization Act of 2008 (TVPRA) should afford the right for all unaccompanied children to be placed in section 240 of the Immigration and Nationality Act (INA) proceedings. However, instead the DHS has moved forward with efforts to deport children and in some cases have already removed children with prior MPP removal orders without allowing them the opportunity to go through the proper process to seek relief as unaccompanied children.
The American Bar Association (ABA) President Judy Perry Martinez has spoken out previously regarding the problems related to MPP including testifying before the House Judiciary Committee’s Subcommittee on Immigration and Citizenship in January 2020. Recently ABA President Martinez sent a letter to DHS Acting Secretary Chad Wolf urging DHS to stop removing children and youth without affording them the proper protections of the TVPRA.
When a child has received a final order while in MPP related proceedings, this creates a significant impact on the child and their potential legal options. With DHS’s actions to swiftly deport children with MPP-related final orders, several nonprofit organizations have filed federal cases in some cases in an effort to seek justice and protection for their clients affected by MPP hoping to halt removal and to allow children to seek relief while in the United States.
Additional Recent Litigation Involving MPP
Moreover, the American Immigration Council, the American Immigration Lawyers Association (AILA), Human Rights Watch, and Winston & Strawn LLP recently filed a lawsuit under the Freedom of Information Act (FOIA) to seek “records about the implementation and handling of the program” by DHS in an effort to have transparency and accountability regarding MPP. According to AILA, “[t]hough the program was an unprecedented shift in US asylum policy and procedure, the government agencies responsible for carrying it out have not made guidance or information about how the program operates available to the public, advocates, attorneys, and asylum seekers directly impacted by the program.”
Background on MPP
MPP was implemented in January 2019. The MPP program requires some asylum seekers on the Southern border to wait in Mexico while their claims are adjudicated. Unaccompanied children along with certain other vulnerable groups should not be included in the program according to the Department of Homeland Security (DHS); however, in reality, the program has impacted unaccompanied children. The U.S. Supreme Court allowed the MPP program to continue in March 2020 while the Court determines whether it will review the case, Innovation Law Lab v. Wolf out of the 9th Circuit.
To learn more about the MPP program, watch CILA’s related webinars, as well as read American Immigration Council’s Fact Sheet and CILA’s blog post The Intersection of the Transit Bar, MPP and Metering.
Trainings Related to Working with Children Affected by MPP
CILA and CLINIC recently worked together to host two webinars to provide an overview of how MPP is affecting unaccompanied children and to help advocates working with children affected by MPP. Both webinars are available on CILA’s website.
The first webinar held on March 18th, Strategies for Working with Children Affected by MPP, included several speakers from CILA, CLINIC, DMRS, ProBAR, and ImmDef. The webinar provides background information relating to MPP and how the program affects unaccompanied children, as well as an update regarding the situation on the border and insights from on the ground practitioners.
The second webinar held on June 16th, Strategies for Working with Children Affected by MPP, Part 2: Equitable Tolling, Motions to Reopen & Motions to Stay, featured Trina Realmuto, Executive Director of the National Immigration Litigation Alliance (NILA) as the primary presenter, and speakers from CILA and CLINIC provided an introduction and participated in the question and answer portion of the webinar. The training covered motions practice before the Immigration Court and Board of Immigration Appeals and equitable tolling. Realmuto provided practical tips based on her over twenty years of experience in immigration, damages, and transparency litigation in federal courts. The training takes a more in-depth look at the strategies advocates can consider when working with children affected by MPP.
 See Michael Garcia Bochenek, US: ‘Remain in Mexico’ Program Harming Children, Human Rights Watch (Feb. 12, 2020). See also Marking One Year of the Horrific “Remain in Mexico” Policy – Over 800 Violent Attacks on Asylum Seekers, Human Rights Watch (Jan. 22, 2020).
 See Adolfo Flores, ICE Is Trying to Deport Unaccompanied Immigrant Kids, Saying They’ve Already Had Their Day in Court, BuzzFeed News (May 12, 2020). See also Lomi Kriel, The Trump Administration is Rushing Deportations of Migrant Children During Coronavirus, ProPublica (May 18, 2020); Molly O’Toole, Under Trump policy, U.S. plays custody keep-away with migrant children, Los Angeles Times (May 18, 2020).
 Debra Cassens Weiss, ABA president calls for creation of independent immigration courts, criticizes ‘remain in Mexico’ policy, ABA Journal (Jan. 30, 2020).
 Amanda Robert, Unaccompanied children are being deported without the hearings they are entitled to, ABA president says, ABA Journal (June 9, 2020).
 See US: Lawsuit Over ‘Remain in Mexico’ Program Secrecy, American Immigration Lawyers Association (May 14, 2020).