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Is it legal to force asylum-seekers to “Remain in Mexico”?

The Migrant Protection Protocols (MPP), otherwise known as the “Remain in Mexico” policy has fundamentally changed the nature of asylum to the United States. Ever since implementation on January 25, 2019 it has received extensive criticism from human rights groups as it has left roughly 60,000 migrants languishing in often unsafe or ill-equipped areas as they await asylum hearings. Now, it seems that this controversial policy may be in its last days.

In recent months, there have been two high-profile lawsuits filed against the policy. The first is in defense of migrants with “known physical/mental health issues” who are exempt from deportation in the MPP because it violates laws that protect people with disabilities from discrimination and administrative procedure laws. Many migrants with disabilities have nonetheless found themselves returned to Mexico to await their hearing. If approved, this case could result in hundreds of disabled migrants being relocated to the United States to await their asylum hearings.

Last month, 11 migrants from Honduras, El Salvador, and Guatemala filed a separate lawsuit against the policy claiming that forcing migrants to remain in Mexico while preparing for trial prevents them from accessing legal support vital to their cases. Asylum-seekers without legal representation have a 5 times lower chance of being granted asylum. This case will be challenged in the Supreme Court and will likely be discussed well into 2021. However, the incoming administration has previously pledged to rescind the policy, having tweeted on March 11th, “Donald Trump's "Remain in Mexico" policy is dangerous, inhumane, and goes against everything we stand for as a nation of immigrants. My administration will end it.” but when and how this will occur and is unclear.

At this time legal support is beyond the means of most migrants and asylum seekers. Indeed most asylum seekers struggle to find legal support to aid them in their claim to resettle in the US. For this reason, One Digital World will soon partner with Formally, a program that empowers applicants and attorneys alike by simplifying asylum, immigration, and citizenship forms digitally. One Digital World will provide access and digital training to asylum seekers so they can find representation and prepare their legal cases.

The next few months might see major changes in the asylum process in the United States. One Digital World will continue to monitor this and looks forward to assisting asylum seekers in Mexico with their education and providing virtual access to their immigration forms.

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