Wyden, Merkley, Colleagues Condemn Reimplementation of ‘Remain in Mexico’ Policy; Urge Biden-Harris Administration to Reverse Expansion of the Program

Washington, D.C. – U.S. Sens. Ron Wyden and Jeff Merkley this week joined colleagues in expressing their deep disappointment in the reimplementation of the Migrant Protection Protocols (MPP), also known as the ‘Remain in Mexico’ program, and strongly urged the Biden-Harris Administration to reverse course on the program’s expansion.

The re-implementation of MPP subjects more vulnerable asylum seekers to a program that Secretary Mayorkas terminated for imposing “unjustifiable human costs.” 

“We are particularly disappointed by your Administration’s decision to expand this program to new populations such as Haitian migrants, limit access to counsel to a 24-hour period in custody, and to expand to additional ports of entry in areas where shelters may not have adequate capacity,” the lawmakers wrote in a letter to President Joe Biden and Homeland Security Secretary Alejandro Mayorkas. “We are also concerned that the Administration has not announced any plan to prioritize processing for the migrants placed into MPP under the previous administration who still remain in Mexico, many who have been waiting years for court hearings. These choices suggest that your Administration has made a decision to normalize and expand a cruel “deterrent” policy that fails to actually address the root causes of migration and in fact, led to increased migrant recidivism rates.” 

During its last implementation, ‘Remain in Mexico’ denied approximately 68,000 people the ability to prepare their immigration cases in the United States. There were also over 1,500 publicly reported cases of violence against people returned to Mexico under the program, including incidents of rape, kidnapping, and murder. 

The lawmakers strongly condemned the current administration for following in the footsteps of the Trump Administration by promising to resolve cases in 180-days, a promise that immigration courts will be unable to meet given their current backlog in cases. They urged the administration to prioritize cases of individuals who have been waiting in Mexico for more than two years.  

“Finally, we request that the Administration and DHS stop relying on this xenophobic policy and prioritize the expansion of legal pathways to the United States and refugee protections in the Western Hemisphere. Until robust legal pathways are available, the United States must restart safe and orderly access to our asylum system and stop returning asylum seekers to danger in violation of our laws,” the lawmakers continued. “After four years of cruel, exclusionary, and anti-immigrant policies, returning to failed deterrence policies will not address regional migration.” 

The letter was led by U.S. Sen. Bob Menendez, D-N.J., and U.S. Rep. Veronica Escobar, D-Texas, and along with Wyden and Merkley was co-signed by Sens. Patrick Leahy, D-Vt., Ben Ray Luján, D-N.M., Alex Padilla, D-Calif., Patty Murray, D-Wash., Cory Booker, D-N.J., Bernie Sanders, I-Vt., Mazie Hirono, D-Hawaii, Elizabeth Warren, D-Mass., Tammy Baldwin, D-Wis., Martin Heinrich, D-N.M., and Ed Markey, D-Mass. In the House of Representatives, the letter was signed by Reps. Adriano Espaillat, D-N.Y.), Grace Napolitano, D-Calif., Jimmy Gomez, D-Calif., Juan Vargas, D-Calif., Alexandria Ocasio-Cortez, D-N.Y., Raúl Grijalva, D-Ariz., Albio Sires, D-N.J., Joaquin Castro, D-Texas, Eleanor Holmes Norton, D-D.C., Rashida Tlaib, D-Mich., Norma Torres, D-Calif., Jesús G. “Chuy” García, D-Ill., Jim McGovern, D-Mass., Grace Meng, D-N.Y., Henry C. “Hank” Johnson, D-Ga., Nanette Diaz Barragán, D-Calif., Linda T. Sánchez, D-Calif., Tony Cárdenas, D-Calif., Madeleine Dean, D-Pa., Marilyn Strickland, D-Wash., Sylvia Garcia, D-Texas, and J. Luis Correa, D-Calif.

Full text of the letter is here.

A web version of this release is here.