Seven asylum-seekers, including children, will reunite with their families in Massachusetts and safely pursue their applications within the United States, in an ACLU victory against a Trump-era policy. U.S. District Court Judge Indira Talwani yesterday issued a preliminary injunction in a lawsuit filed by the ACLU of Massachusetts and Fish & Richardson on behalf of Massachusetts families with loved ones who were forced into Mexico.
“Families belong together, and we are delighted that these families will be brought to safety after well over a year in peril,” said Carol Rose, executive director of the ACLU of Massachusetts. “Thousands of families, including young children, have been subjected to violence and suffering as a result of this policy. Unwinding Trump’s harmful and unlawful policies is just the start to making our asylum system more efficient, fair, and humane.”
Under what was dubbed the “Migrant Protection Protocols” (MPP) by the Trump administration, tens of thousands of asylum-seekers have been sent to dangerous cities along the U.S.-Mexico border, where many still wait in peril to have their cases heard. Far from providing “protection” for migrants and asylum-seekers, the policy has exposed, and continues to expose, people to severe risk and persecution from criminal cartels—including, the court noted, being at risk from “gun battles, murder, armed robbery, car-jacking, kidnapping, forced disappearances, extortion, and sexual assault.” The Biden administration announced last week that the U.S. government would soon start to allow some asylum-seekers who were stranded in Mexico to enter the U.S. so they can complete their immigration proceedings with family members.
The ACLU of Massachusetts and Fish & Richardson filed this lawsuit in March 2020. Two months later, a federal judge ordered the government to allow the families to safely pursue their applications in the U.S. In December, the ACLU amended its lawsuit to add three additional families; yesterday, a federal judge ordered the government to allow the seven asylum-seekers to enter the U.S. The plaintiffs endured between 16 and 18 months of danger and abject misery simply for the chance to seek protection in the United States. Following yesterday’s injunction, all of them have now been processed out of the MPP and released so that they may be reunited with their families in Massachusetts.
“It is an honor to work with the ACLU on this important case, and we are thrilled to be part of this victory,” said Adam Kessel, the principal who led the Fish & Richardson team. “We are proud of the work we are doing to reunite families seeking legal refuge in the United States. Many of the families in the U.S. immigration system are fleeing horrific violence and persecution in their home countries and then are forced back into dangerous situations with the unlawful ‘Return to Mexico’ policy. The stakes are high and the need is great, and we will continue to advocate for these brave asylum-seekers.”
Among the plaintiffs are a family of five that has been struggling to feed their children in a dilapidated home in Matamoros. The plaintiffs also include two mothers whose children were processed out of the MPP in recent months, one living at the migrant camp in Matamoros and one living in Nuevo Laredo, where she has survived numerous close encounters with cartels. Both will now be able to reunite with their children in Massachusetts. The court’s injunction came as temperatures in Matamoros are scheduled to drop dangerously to 25 degrees on Monday—the coldest since MPP was expanded to the city in July 2019—putting in peril the lives of migrants at the camp and elsewhere.
The ACLU of Massachusetts previously reached a settlement on behalf of another client living in the Commonwealth, whose husband and son were forced into danger for months under MPP. The family was reunited in February 2020. To date, the ACLU of Massachusetts’ fight against the MPP has reunited seven families and brought 14 asylum-seekers to safety in the U.S.