The union representing 14,000 U.S. Citizenship and Immigration Services employees today filed a friend-of-the-court brief supporting the ACLU’s challenge to a Trump administration policy that forces asylum-seekers to return to Mexico and remain there while their asylum applications are processed.
Under what was dubbed the “Migrant Protection Protocols” (MPP) by the Trump administration, over 60,000 asylum-seekers have been sent to dangerous cities in Mexico, waiting in peril for many months just to have their cases heard. Amid the coronavirus pandemic, MPP court proceedings are on hold indefinitely, leaving thousands of people stranded for even longer. Far from providing “protection” for migrants and asylum-seekers, the policy has exposed already vulnerable people to an increased risk of violence and persecution.
“In the last three years, the Executive Branch of our government has sought to dismantle our carefully crafted system of vetting asylum claims, and with it, America’s position as a global leader in refugee protection,” writes the National CIS Council 119 in its amicus brief. “The MPP is part of that dismantling. … Council 119’s members are steadfast in their commitment to serving our country by continuing its proud tradition as a refuge for the persecuted while ensuring the safety and security of American citizens. The MPP betrays this tradition and would force Council 119’s members to take actions contrary to their oath to uphold our nation’s immigration laws.”
The ACLU of Massachusetts successfully reunited three families with a preliminary injunction in May—a win that the Trump administration appealed. The federal government has asked the First Circuit to overturn the district court’s order and seeks to immediately return five asylum-seekers to dangerous cities along the U.S.-Mexico border. The USCIS union and other groups are now urging the First Circuit to affirm the lower court’s preliminary injunction.
Several former government officials—including U.S. Secretary of Homeland Security Janet Napolitano and Director of National Intelligence James Clapper—also filed an amicus brief in the case today. The brief argues that MPP actively harms the United States’ foreign and security interests.
“Forcing Mexico to house an unsustainable number of migrants, while failing to share any of the burden, can only hurt both countries—not to mention the migrants caught in the middle,” write the former government officials. “Rather than solve the humanitarian crisis, forcing Mexico to shoulder the entire burden for asylum processing undermines efforts to cooperate to collectively solve the common migration issue.”
A third amicus brief was signed by a coalition of more than a dozen legal and community-based organizations who work with and advocate on behalf of immigrant communities. The signers include Boston College Legal Services LAB Immigration Clinic; Boston University School of Law Immigrants’ Rights and Human Trafficking Program; Brazilian Women’s Group; Catholic Charities of the Archdiocese of Boston; Catholic Legal Immigration Network, Inc.; Chelsea Collaborative Inc.; Children’s Law Center of Massachusetts; De Novo Center for Justice and Healing; Greater Boston Legal Services; Harvard Immigration and Refugee Clinic; Immigrant Legal Advocacy Project; Justice Center of Southeast Massachusetts; Kids in Need of Defense; Massachusetts Immigrant and Refugee Advocacy Coalition; Massachusetts Law Reform Institute; Northeastern University School of Law Immigrant Justice Clinic; and Organizacion Maya K’Iche.
“Rather than improve the Nation’s asylum system, the MPP’s purpose is to sabotage it,” write the organizations. “It thus aligns with the administration’s broader mission to sharply curtail nearly all forms of immigration to the United States—especially by people of color.”
The ACLU of Massachusetts previously reached a settlement on behalf of another family living in the Commonwealth. In that case, a father and his son were forced into danger for months under MPP. The family was reunited in February.