A federal judge today ordered the government to allow five asylum-seekers to safely pursue their applications within the United States. The victory comes in a lawsuit filed by the ACLU and Fish & Richardson on behalf of three Massachusetts families with loved ones who are stranded in Mexico under a Trump administration policy.
“We are delighted that these families will be brought to safety after so many months in peril,” said Carol Rose, executive director of the ACLU of Massachusetts. “This Trump administration policy is one of many meant to separate families and inflict pain on those who seek our country’s protection. No family should be forced to endure that, yet many are facing that same trauma right now. The ACLU remains committed to ending this policy altogether.”
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, waiting in peril for many months just to have their cases heard. Far from providing “protection” for migrants and asylum-seekers, the policy has exposed people to severe risk of violence and persecution.
Plaintiffs in the ACLU lawsuit include three women and two young children who were sent by U.S. border officials to Matamoros—a dangerous border town in the Mexican state of Tamaulipas—until their next court date. The families have endured between eight and ten months of danger and abject misery simply for the chance to seek protection in the United States.
“It was 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 very 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.”
The global coronavirus outbreak adds a new layer of risk into the lives of asylum-seekers stuck in Northern Mexico. Court proceedings are on hold, leaving thousands of migrants stranded for additional months. Meanwhile, asylum-seekers face added challenges as charitable assistance on which they depend has been cut back and life in a crowded outdoor encampment exposes them each day to violence and disease.
The ACLU of Massachusetts previously reached a settlement on behalf of another family living in the Commonwealth, whose husband and son were forced into danger for months under MPP. The family was reunited in February.