In Advance of MPP Decision, an Asylum Seeker Shares His Story
In the next few days, the Supreme Court is expected to release a decision on the Biden v. Texas case regarding the “Remain in Mexico” border policy, formally known as the Migrant Protection Protocols, or MPP.
Initiated under the Trump administration in 2019, MPP forced many asylum seekers arriving at the U.S.-Mexico border to wait in Mexico while their immigration cases were processed in the United States, leading to serious legal and human rights violations. The Supreme Court will rule in Biden v. Texas on whether the Biden administration’s termination of the MPP policy in June 2021 was lawful. The case holds great implications for thousands of migrants seeking protection at the Southern border.
As we await the outcome of this momentous case, CLINIC staff asked JP, a Venezuelan young man who was stranded in Juarez, Mexico, under the “Remain in Mexico” policy, to share what he would say to U.S. authorities about his experience if given the chance.
JP shares: I would like to share my experience of being stranded because of MPP with you.
Rather than being about protection, MPP makes migrants less safe. In my case, I was persecuted and constantly intimidated while in Mexico, and still U.S. authorities forced me to remain there while I resolved my immigration case. There were constant threats to my safety, and the Mexican government did not provide security for migrants.
Instead of serving as safe havens for asylum seekers, the migrant shelters in Mexico were targeted by the Mexican mafia and other criminal groups, which today use the shelters as places of business. In the migrant shelters there is frequent intimidation and threats by criminal groups.
In certain cases, I saw the mafia demanding payment in exchange for protection. Those who did not agree to work with or for the mafia ran the risk of losing their life. One day at the shelter I witnessed the mafia snatch a boy from his mother and forced him to work loading a truck with unknown materials. When the boy refused, he was beaten and returned to the shelter. The [criminals] said that whoever refuses to help would suffer the same. Besides this demand for mandatory labor, I also witnessed drug trafficking at the shelter.
It is also worth mentioning that MPP sentences people seeking [protection] to live with the despair that comes from endless waiting and the psychological distress created by constantly living in danger.
When I interacted with them, the United States immigration officers treated me in an abrupt and hostile manner because I was an asylum seeker. It felt like MPP was an obstacle placed before me so that I would renounce the possibility of being safe and sound in the United States.
While I was in a shelter, I never saw Mexican authorities directly provide safety and support to the people in the shelter. On the contrary, we had to constantly look for ways to provide our own security. We also had to find ways to support ourselves and pay for our basic needs.
I must say it again: the MPP policy is not a real solution to the challenges of migration. It is simply not safe for a migrant in Mexico, due to their extreme vulnerability. [Being moved to “safety” in Mexico] is like moving to another room in the Titanic, despite knowing it will sink.