The Migrant Protection Protocols: A Death Knell for Asylum
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UC Irvine Law Review

UC Irvine

The Migrant Protection Protocols: A Death Knell for Asylum


The federal government has slowly chipped away at U.S. asylum protections over the past several decades. Moves to expand the detention and criminalization of asylum seekers in an effort to deter asylum seekers’ entry into the United States have been denounced as violations of U.S. obligations under domestic and international law.1 Yet, in 2018, the Trump administration announced the Migrant Protection Protocols (MPP), an unprecedented policy that sends asylum seekers back to Mexico to await their U.S. immigration court hearings. The MPP presents unique challenges to the due process and nonrefoulement tenets of our asylum system and has raised urgent concerns about the devolving role of the United States as a place of refuge for those in danger. As a result of the MPP, border immigration courts are even more overloaded than before, leading to abbreviated hearings and less process. Moreover, because the MPP forces asylum seekers to wait in Mexico for their court hearing, it is almost impossible for them to find an immigration attorney, let alone meaningfully collaborate with their advocate in developing the case. Since the onset of the COVID-19 pandemic in March 2020, the asylum seekers subject to the MPP face even more severe health and safety risks as they wait in dangerous camps along the border without plumbing or sanitation. The implementation of this policy has ensured that many immigrants pursuing asylum claims will not receive the process they are due under the law and must instead risk persecution. Overall, the MPP is another alarming step the U.S. government has taken towards the dehumanization and brutalization of those who have fled to the United States seeking protection.

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