June 23, 2021

Asylum Seekers with Closed Cases Under the Trump-Era “Remain in Mexico” Policy Now Eligible to Pursue Asylum Claims

WASHINGTON—On June 22, 2021, the Biden administration announced that starting today, June 23, asylum seekers whose cases were closed under the Trump administration’s “Remain in Mexico” policy, also known as Migrant Protection Protocols (MPP), will be allowed to seek asylum in the United States. This long-awaited decision marks the end of an illegal and dangerous assault on asylum seekers who were often unable to return for their hearings for reasons outside their control, leading to the closure of their cases. It has been widely reported that many returned to Mexico only to be raped, assaulted, kidnapped or killed, including at least one child who was murdered.

Government Accountability Project client, former U.S. Customs and Immigration Service (USCIS) asylum officer Douglas Stephens, was one of the very first to raise grave concerns that MPP violated numerous laws and treaty obligations and posed a significant threat of harm to asylum seekers forced to remain in Mexico. Refusing to conduct further interviews under MPP knowing that it was both illegal and endangering asylum seekers, Stephens found himself under threat of retaliation. This threat prompted Stephens to enlist the support of the Asylum Officers union president, Michael Knowles, and disclose his concerns to Senator Jeff Merkley (D-OR). Stephens’ disclosures became the focus of a shocking report issued by Merkley on November 14, 2019.

Since phase one of the Biden administration’s plan to end the Remain in Mexico policy began in February, over 12,000 asylum seekers with open cases have been permitted entry into the United States. After the Biden administration officially ended the policy on June 1, asylum seekers with closed cases were still affected. Starting today, government data indicates that over 30,000 asylum seekers with closed cases could be eligible to pursue asylum claims in the plan’s second phase.

Government Accountability Project Senior Counsel and attorney for Stephens, Dana Gold, said,

“Doug Stephens’s whistleblowing as an asylum officer forced to implement MPP propelled these ongoing legal challenges and made it impossible to ignore the documented harms suffered by asylum seekers on the Mexican border. There is no question that his whistleblowing, combined with the support of the asylum officers’ union, made an invaluable contribution to the long fight led by immigration justice groups to end this illegal and dangerous policy. We commend the Biden administration for putting an end to the ‘Remain in Mexico’ policy, and commend Doug Stephens for his ethical courage, which helped drive this overdue reform.”

Contact: Andrew Harman, Government Accountability Project Communications Director
Email: [email protected]
Phone: (202) 926-3304

Government Accountability Project is the nation’s leading whistleblower protection organization. Through litigating whistleblower cases, publicizing concerns and developing legal reforms, Government Accountability Project’s mission is to protect the public interest by promoting government and corporate accountability. Founded in 1977, Government Accountability Project is a nonprofit, nonpartisan advocacy organization based in Washington, D.C.