On Monday, President Joe Biden resumed the Migrant Protection Protocols (MPP) amid mounting doubts whether it will succeed in ensuring the safety of asylum seekers.
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Although this Trump-era program was repealed, a federal judge ordered it to be resumed, forcing the federal government to negotiate with Mexico the parameters in which it would be implemented again. While the Department of Homeland Security (DHS) claims to have made changes to give greater guarantees to migrants, human rights defenders hold that such modifications will not be enough.
“There is no way to carry out the implementation of the program in a humane and safe way,” Human Rights First (HRF) researcher Kennji Kizuka warned, adding that 6,356 attacks against migrants expelled or blocked in the southern border were reported during the first six months of the Biden administration. Among those cases, 1,500 attacks were recorded against asylum seekers who were placed under the MPP program.
Changes made by DHS to immigration protocols include a commitment that procedures will "generally" be completed within six months of a person's initial return to Mexico. Besides pointing out that this deadline will not be met, human rights defenders recalled that the previous version of MPP did not allow migrants adequate access to legal advice.
Between January 2019 and January 2021, nearly 95 percent of 70,000 MPP asylum seekers did not have an attorney, as acknowledged by Aaron Reichlin Melnik, a policy counsel for the American Immigration Council (AIC).
In response to these criticisms, DHS maintains that the new MPP program will provide its beneficiaries with "significant opportunities" to access information and legal representation. They will also have access to phones to make free calls to an attorney.
"Migrants are likely to continue to face the dangers of living for prolonged periods in Mexican border cities, often without shelter or sufficient resources," Migration Policy Institute (MPI) analyst Jessica Bolter said, adding that the measures taken by Biden did not they seem very different from those of the Trump administration.