Nation’s Largest Nonprofit Immigration Legal Services Network Makes Clear that Access to Counsel, Justice, and Due Process Impossible under MPP
SILVER SPRING, Maryland — In response to the Biden administration’s announcement that it expects to restart the Migrant Protection Protocols, or MPP, in the coming weeks, the Catholic Legal Immigration Network, Inc., or CLINIC, issued the following statement:
As the nation’s largest network of nonprofit immigration legal services providers and having had staff serve on the ground in Mexico under the first iteration of MPP, CLINIC wishes to make clear to the governments of the United States and Mexico, our affiliates, partners, and the American people at large, that meaningful access to counsel, justice, and due process under MPP is categorically impossible. For this reason, CLINIC refuses to collaborate with the U.S. government on any initiatives that attempt to connect individuals to services in the most impossible of circumstances. To do so would indicate that we believe that due process for asylum seekers under MPP is possible, which it absolutely is not.
CLINIC’s work revolves around our belief and value that all immigrants must have access to representation and justice, no matter how much money they have in their pockets and no matter the color of their skin. We believe in the dignity and rights of asylum seekers. We reject a system where people facing life and death consequences are forced to navigate a complex legal system — in a language they may not speak and in a culture which they may not be accustomed to — alone. Access to counsel means better outcomes. In the case of asylum seekers, it means saving their lives.
Meaningful representation must include the ability to access and communicate with your legal representative. It must include your representative being able to answer your questions and share information at any time and provide preparation for legal proceedings. It must include being in a safe and secure situation to receive that information and make informed decisions.
Under MPP, asylum seekers, people who have arrived at the U.S. border fleeing for their lives, are forced to stay in Mexico in deplorable and inhumane conditions. They have no access to the resources needed to meaningfully engage with legal representation in the United States. Tania Guerrero, a Project Attorney with CLINIC’s Estamos Unidos Asylum Project, who provided direct service in Mexico shared an experience: “I witnessed firsthand how Migrant Protection Protocols forced a woman to live on the streets, be kidnapped, be offered shelter by someone who was kidnapped himself, and then be kidnapped again and tortured and raped. When she was able to escape and sought protection at the bridge from U.S. CBP officers, they told her to wait for her asylum hearing date as she bled before them.”
Imagine, under these conditions, trying to find and access legal representation in the United States.
CLINIC stands with asylum seekers and our partners at the U.S.-Mexico border, and we will not participate in or be complicit in any messaging that access to justice is possible under MPP. We call on the Biden administration to cease in the restart of MPP and focus all energy and resources on restoring a welcoming border for all who come here looking for safety and security.