Update 12/8/22: The Biden administration has now appealed Judge Sullivan's ruling, backtracking yet again on their promises to protect asylum rights. While the outcome of the litigation is not yet clear, the administration's decision increases the odds that Title 42 will remain in effect past its currently-scheduled end date.

Challenging Injustice, Advancing Human Rights

The Unitarian Universalist Service Committee advances human rights through grassroots collaborations.

Court Decision Could Finally End “Remain in Mexico”

UUSC Vice President describes Supreme Court ruling in Biden v. Texas as an important step forward but an incomplete protection of human rights.
On Thursday, June 30, 2022, the U.S. Supreme Court issued its final decision of the term in the case Biden v. Texas, ruling that the Biden administration did not violate statute in deciding to end the “Remain in Mexico” program started by Trump. However, the court left the door open for further administrative law challenges to Biden’s decision.

The court’s decision comes just days after more than 50 people died while trying to cross the border in an abandoned trailer truck—a tragedy attributable to “Remain in Mexico” and similar U.S. policies that deny safe and other viable methods of migration for people seeking asylum.

UUSC Vice President and Lead Programs Officer Rachel Gore Freed issued the following response to these events: 

Today’s decision affirms what asylum-seekers and advocates have known all along: Of course the federal government has the right to end the so-called “Migrant Protection Protocols” (MPP)—more accurately known as Remain in Mexico. We welcome the obvious conclusion that ending this program was not a violation of statute, we remain vigilant and will monitor any further attempts at the lower courts to prolong MPP on other grounds.

This program should never have existed in the first place. MPP was created by fiat of the Trump administration in January 2019 and has resulted in the systematic denial of the asylum rights of thousands of people. Instead of debating whether the government has the power to end the program, courts should have ruled long ago that MPP is itself unlawful and harmful to basic human rights.

In the more than three-and-a-half years it has been in effect, MPP has caused unspeakable harm, trapping asylum-seekers in deadly conditions. During that time, thousands of people stranded in border encampments have been subject to kidnapping, rape, extortion, or other attacks as a result of the policy, according to human rights observers

Returning people to conditions where they face persecution or torture violates both U.S. and international refugee law. It also leaves people with no choice but to attempt to cross the border by more dangerous routes, resulting in ghastly tragedies like the one we saw this week in Texas. If the U.S. restored asylum access at ports of entry, by contrast, people would be able to safely cross the border, and far fewer lives would be lost and families would be safer.

Today’s ruling gets us closer to this goal, but there is still a long way to go. The end of this harmful program is only one of several restrictions on the right to seek asylum that remain in effect at the southern border. The Title 42 policy also continues to strand thousands of people in perilous conditions and result in the unlawful expulsion of refugees to harm. 

Lower court judges must end partisan and legally spurious attempts to prolong both MPP and the Title 42 policy. The Biden administration must also redouble their efforts to end both policies now that the Supreme Court has belatedly opened a path forward. Today’s decision is a victory; it is now time for our elected officials to rebuild formerly-held rights that protect families seeking safety at our borders.

UUSC members can take action by urging their members of Congress to save asylum here.

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The Unitarian Universalist Service Committee (UUSC) is a human rights and solidarity organization founded as a rescue mission in 1940 during the Holocaust. Based in Cambridge, Massachusetts, and with a membership of more than 35,000 supporters across the United States, UUSC’s programs focus on the issues of climate and disaster justice, migrant justice, and international justice and accountability.

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