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New Report Unveils Impact of Biden Reboot of Remain in Mexico

WASHINGTON, D.C. — On the heels of the Biden administration’s reimplementation of the Trump-era Remain in Mexico Policy (RMX), the Women’s Refugee Commission (WRC) released a new report today that unveils new findings from a recent trip to the U.S. border with Mexico and analyzes the expected impact of restarting the policy formally known as the Migrant Protection Protocols. More than 70,000 individuals — including families and children — were sent back to Mexico as a result of the policy during the Trump administration.

WRC was in Tijuana, Mexico, on a fact-finding mission when the Biden administration’s announcement was made on December 2. To date, the administration has implemented RMX in El Paso, Texas, with expansion likely at other locations along the U.S. border with Mexico. The policy is being reimplemented at the same time as summary expulsions of people seeking protection continue under a Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC) order under Title 42.

“Just like the last iteration of Remain in Mexico, the reinstatement of this policy will unquestionably endanger individuals seeking protection — including women and children — and there will be no guarantee of due process or safety,” said Ursela Ojeda, senior policy advisor in WRC’s Migrant Rights and Justice program. “While it is true that the Biden administration was ordered by a court to reimplement RMX, it is unconscionable that it is going well beyond the original policy’s scope and expanding this unlawful and rights-violating policy to new populations, including Haitians who face anti-Black racism and discrimination in Mexico.”

During the six-day trip, WRC met with women and families seeking asylum, United Nations staff, local legal services providers, and government officials, as well as legal and humanitarian services providers, to discuss conditions at the border and the potential impact of an RMX restart.

Savitri Arvey, policy advisor in WRC’s Migrant Rights and Justice program, said: “It’s alarming that the U.S. government is moving forward with this expanded policy and returning individuals to Mexico before establishing any new oversight or redress mechanisms to help try to protect those returned to Mexico under the policy. The administration has moved forward without having done any of the necessary legwork to coordinate with humanitarian and legal service providers on the ground. This is a grave error that will put people in harm’s way.”

The report, Asylum Denied: Remain in Mexico 2.0, highlighted a series of concerns about the Biden administration’s RMX implementation and expansion. These include that the policy applies to individuals from all Western Hemisphere countries —specifically people from Haiti; exacerbates the current lack of capacity in Mexico to receive and support asylum-seeking individuals being returned; creates significant strains on local resources and services; increases the threat of violence to women and children; and risks renewed family separation.

“The Biden and Lopez Obrador administrations repeatedly promised that Remain in Mexico would be different this time — due to additional resources and humanitarian safeguards — yet our trip showed us that these are little more than words and that these promises are unlikely to be kept,” said Arvey.

The report also issued a series of recommendations for both the U.S. and Mexican governments. Among them, WRC urged the Biden administration to reverse the expansion and stop further implementation of RMX; immediately allow those who have been subjected to either the previous or current iteration of RMX to return to the U.S. for the remainder of their immigration proceedings; end expulsions under Title 42; and ensure that individuals can access asylum at the U.S. southern border, including at ports of entry. WRC also urged the Mexican government to cease cooperation with the Biden administration’s policies that deny access to asylum and endanger migrants, and refuse to allow people seeking asylum in the U.S. and migrants to be returned to its territory under RMX or any similar policy.

“Remain in Mexico was one of the most cruel and xenophobic anti-asylum policies implemented by the Trump administration,” said Ojeda. “It was intentionally designed to prevent people from receiving asylum by placing them in harm’s way. Now that it has been reimplemented by the Biden administration, it will be a shameful part of this administration’s growing legacy of anti-asylum policies and practices. The Women’s Refugee Commission has long outlined steps the administration can and should take to meaningfully restart access to asylum, including at ports of entry, and urges the administration to engage on charting a new course to welcome with dignity. In the meantime, the administration should work to immediately end this dangerous and unlawful policy once and for all.”