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Race & Equity
Follow our coverage of immigration and related issues affecting Latinos in the Charlotte area.

Charlotte Attorney: 'Remain In Mexico' Policy Reinstatement Creates Humanitarian Crisis

The U.S. Supreme Court

The Supreme Court on Tuesday issued a ruling requiring President Joe Biden’s administration to comply with a lower court’s decision mandating the government to reinstate a Trump-era policy that requires those seeking asylum to remain in Mexico while they await legal proceedings.

The Migrant Protection Protocols program is also known as the “Remain in Mexico” policy.

Before the policy was implemented, there were a variety of actions the U.S. government would take when immigrants reached the Southern border seeking asylum, says Rebecca O’Neill, an immigration attorney with the Carolina Migrant Network.

Some were placed in removal proceedings and given a court date; others were placed in detention facilities where they could request to be released to seek asylum.

“In short, the vast majority of individuals were allowed into the United States to apply for and seek asylum,” O’Neill said.

Biden Administration Rescinds MPP

In February, following an executive order from Biden, the Department of Homeland Security began to bring immigrants who were in Mexico due to the Migrant Protection Protocols policy to the United States while their asylum cases were heard.

Between then and May, more than 10,000 individuals who were previously forced to remain in Mexico were able to enter the United States, according to the Transactional Records Access Clearinghouse at Syracuse University. Nearly 300 of these cases ended up in Charlotte.

O’Neill now represents a few of these cases. She says some of her clients were separated as a result of the policy.

“I have one client who was 14 years old who didn't see her mother for two years and her other siblings because they were stuck in MPP,” O’Neill said. “And finally, her mother and siblings were able to enter after the current administration started rolling back MPP and allowing people into the United States.”

Supreme Court Requires MPP Reinstatement

Now, a 6-3 decision from the Supreme Court is requiring the government to comply with a district court ruling and bring back the “Remain in Mexico” policy. The Biden administration turned to the Supreme Court to put a hold on a federal judge’s ruling to reimplement the program.

O’Neill says the recent Supreme Court decision is “extremely disappointing.” She says the Migrant Protection Protocols created what she describes as a humanitarian crisis and she says reinstating the policy will perpetuate it.

“Many of my clients who were stuck there were raped, witnessed sexual assault and rape of other individuals, were kidnaped, have family members who are still missing because of violence in and around the areas where these makeshift camps are,” O’Neill said. “So it not only created this humanitarian crisis at the border, but it traumatized an entire group of people who are fleeing a traumatic situation.”

O’Neill says these constant back-and-forth legal battles for immigration policies affect immigrants, like her clients, the most.

“People have been given hope that they can seek asylum in the United States, that they can leave extremely dangerous situations,” O'Neill said. “And that hope is taken away seemingly in an arbitrary manner multiple times over the course of a week.”

The Department of Homeland Security has appealed the district court’s decision. In a statement responding to the Supreme Court decision, the department said it will “comply with the order in good faith” while continuing to challenge it.

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