U.S.-Mexico Border Program
Forcibly displaced people arrive at the U.S.-Mexico border from across the world, but discriminatory policies – like Remain in Mexico (RMX) and Title 42 – have restricted their access to the U.S. asylum process, which may otherwise offer them protection, and forced them into increasingly harsh living conditions in Mexico.
IRAP targets our services to the populations with the greatest immediate need and ability to gain admission or parole into the United States through existing legal pathways. In response to the inhumane treatment of asylum seekers at the U.S.-Mexico border, IRAP works with Derechos Humanos Integrales en Acción (DHIA) to provide remote legal advice, community education, and legal representation to forcibly displaced people seeking asylum in the United States via the Ciudad Juárez/El Paso port of entry. In partnership with DHIA, we screen cases for vulnerable migrants in Ciudad Juárez in person at shelters across the city, as well as telephonically.
Asylum seekers with access to legal aid are five times more likely to receive a positive asylum decision in the United States, yet asylum-seekers who were subjected to RMX faced nearly insurmountable obstacles to accessing legal counsel to help them present an asylum claim in an immigration hearing. Due to safety concerns and logistical challenges, there are very few organizations offering legal aid to asylum seekers in border regions, and the need for counsel far exceeds the capacity of the organizations doing this work. Only 7% of asylum-seekers in RMX had access to counsel, resulting in grants of asylum for under 0.1% of total cases. Now, with recent court decisions halting the Biden Administration’s winddown of RMX, thousands of people remain in Mexico who need legal assistance to review the decisions in their cases and determine whether they may be able to – with the assistance of counsel, challenge those decisions, and obtain protection in the U.S.
We help clients navigate a complex and rapidly shifting legal landscape while also advocating for systemic change to make asylum policies and practices more equitable and efficient.
Facing political persecution, Rubén* fled Nicaragua to Mexico, but in Mexico, he was still not safe. He lived in fear of violence and discrimination for being gay and HIV positive. While trying to reach the U.S. border to seek asylum, Rubén was kidnapped and sexually assaulted. When he finally made it to the border, he was turned away under Title 42, a policy exploited by the Trump Administration and continued by the Biden Administration to turn away and expel asylum seekers en masse. Forced to return to Mexico and live in a shelter, Rubén continued to experience harassment and did not have reliable access to life-sustaining medical care. IRAP staff sought an exception to Title 42 on Rubén’s behalf, and he was successfully granted Humanitarian Parole into the United States and reunited with his brother-in-law.
In June 2021, members of IRAP’s U.S. Legal Services team traveled to the El Paso/Ciudad Juárez borderlands to meet with asylum seekers in need of legal assistance and learn more about conditions along the U.S.-Mexico border. IRAP staff members met with community partners, conducted intakes, and visited shelters.
Related News & Resources
Tell Your Senator: End Title 42 and Restore Asylum Access
Title 42 was weaponized by the Trump administration – under the pretense of public health – to deny asylum seekers their enshrined legal right to request asylum. But the reality is that Title 42 doesn’t protect anyone’s health, and instead puts already at-risk people in dangerous, often life-threatening, situations. Speak out in support of asylum protections today!
“There is no way to make an inherently inhumane program humane”: IRAP Strongly Opposes Re-Implementation of Remain in Mexico Program
Today, the Biden administration announced its intention to imminently restart the Migrant Protection Protocols (MPP), also known as the Remain in Mexico program, despite stating in an October 2021 memo terminating the program that there are “inherent problems with the program that no amount of resources can sufficiently fix.”