Over 60,000 people at the southern border have been forced to return to Mexico under the Trump administration’s Migrant Protection Protocols (MPP), also known as the “Remain in Mexico” program. As they get sent back, U.S. government officials give them insufficient information about how to attend their immigration court hearings in the United States.
Then when people do not make it to their court hearings, the government asks the court to deport them because they didn’t show up to the hearing. We must do more to uphold our immigration laws and the basic concept of due process.
Under MPP, U.S. Department of Homeland Security (DHS) officials return people applying for asylum at the southern border to Mexico to wait for their immigration court hearings. U.S. immigration law requires certain protections for those placed into removal proceedings—including those sent to wait in Mexico.
One of the most fundamental of these protections is adequate notice of the immigration court hearing, so that migrants can present their case to a judge.
DHS officials are supposed to give notice—informally known as a “tear sheet”—that tells people when and where they need to arrive at a port of entry on the U.S.-Mexico border to be transported to their hearing in the United States.
But the tear sheets often are incomplete, inaccurate, confusing, and in some cases, there is no proof that the government provided people with the tear sheet at all.
As John Oliver recently quipped on his program Last Week Tonight:
“The government system is about as effective as painting ‘meet us at the place’ on a raccoon and just throwing it over the wall into Mexico. Good luck getting the instructions, and if you do, good luck figuring out how to follow them.”
Yet this information is critical.
Unlike individuals who are allowed to wait in the United States for their immigration court hearings, those placed in MPP cannot get themselves to the courthouse on the day and time that an immigration judge requests. Instead, those in MPP are at the mercy of U.S. government officials transporting them from Mexico to the court on the U.S. side of the border.
DHS officials will only transport migrants that appear at the correct date and time to the designated port of entry at the border. But this is nearly impossible if the individual never received this information.
It is also a further violation of the immigration statutes. U.S. immigration law requires that individuals receive proper notice of their hearings before they can be deported for not showing up.
When officials seek to deport people for not showing up at their hearings—even when they never got adequate information about how to attend the hearing—the government adds insult to injury.
On October 26, 2020, the American Immigration Council authored a brief to the Board of Immigration Appeals (Board) joined by the American Immigration Lawyers Association, Tahirih Justice Center, Hebrew Immigrant Aid Society, the Fred T. Korematsu Center for Law and Equality, and Human Rights First.
The groups filed an amicus (or “friend-of-the-court”) in response to the Board’s invitation to comment on whether certain DHS notice practices in MPP cases satisfy due process. The brief explains why DHS’ failure to provide migrants in MPP with adequate notice of their court hearings defies the immigration statues and denies people basic due process.
A bedrock principle of any modern legal system is the opportunity for individuals to be heard and present their cases before a judge. DHS must stop denying people placed in MPP these basic protections.
FILED UNDER: Department of Homeland Security, U.S.-Mexico Border