November 20, 2019

House Committee Holds Hearing on Implications of ‘Remain in Mexico’ Policy

Government Accountability Project Clients Submit Testimony in Hearing

WASHINGTON – On Tuesday, November 19, the House Subcommittee on Border Security, Facilitation and Operations of the House Committee on Homeland Security held a hearing titled “Examining the Human Rights and Legal Implications of DHS’ ‘Remain in Mexico’ Policy.”

Central to the hearing were two Government Accountability Project clients who have objected to the policy, officially known as Migrant Protection Protocols (MPP), which forces refugees from Central American countries seeking asylum in the U.S. to wait in Mexico in dangerous conditions, including the daily risk of kidnapping, rape, and other violence.

Government Accountability Project represents several current and former employees of the Department of Homeland Security (DHS) who have blown the whistle on illegal and abusive practices, involving MPP and other DHS programs and policies targeting migrant children, families, and adults at the southern border. Two of these clients are on the frontlines of MPP enforcement by virtue of their current or past work as U.S. Asylum Officers: Michael Knowles, the President of the Asylum Officers union, and Doug Stephens, an Asylum Officer who refused to conduct asylum interviews under MPP and quit. Stephens’ story was recently disclosed by Senator Jeff Merkley (D-OR) in his office’s November 2019 report “Shattered Refuge: A U.S. Senate Investigation into the Trump Administration Gutting of Asylum.” Stephens’ disclosures were reported on by The Washington Post, CNN, The Los Angeles Times, , and The New York Times. Stephens’ hearing statement can be found here, Knowles’ here.

Both testimonies highlight ways in which MPP is deeply troubling. MPP is being challenged in court on the grounds that it violates numerous laws, statutes, and treaties in addition to causing serious harm to migrants forced to wait in dangerous and inhumane conditions in Mexico. Stephens noted in his statement that MPP, the implementation of which violates established due process and immigration laws, puts Asylum Officers who are duty-bound to faithfully administer immigration laws in an untenable situation, stating that “under MPP we are affirmatively and intentionally harming those same individuals we previously protected. In so doing, we are complicit in the persecution, torture, and other human rights abuses these individuals will face back in Mexico.”

Knowles in his testimony noted the Asylum Officer union’s opposition to MPP through an amicus brief it filed in litigation opposing the Remain in Mexico program and their full support of Stephens’ dissent against implementing the policy. He also highlighted attacks on whistleblowers and union members who have spoken against the policy publicly. Knowles expressed his concern over the attacks that union members have suffered and asked Congress to take action.

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

“We thank the Subcommittee for looking into the grave issues revealed by our clients. The ‘Remain in Mexico’ policy asks its dedicated civil servants to violate the law and knowingly endanger thousands of people legally seeking asylum in the US. We cannot ignore the voices of the whistleblowers and officials who are coming forward to express the extent of the gross mismanagement and severe humanitarian crisis created by MPP. The ‘Remain in Mexico’ policy must be rescinded.”

Contact: Dana Gold, Senior Counsel and Director of Education
Email: [email protected]
Phone: (202) 457-0034 x160

Government Accountability Project

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.