IRAP staff member Lily Fajardo and CLINIC partner Victor Flores stand in front of the Ciudad Juarez / El Paso port of entry.

U.S. Southern Border Project

Forcibly displaced people arrive at the U.S. southern border from across the world, but discriminatory policies – like the Migration Protection Protocols (MPP) 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. southern border, IRAP has partnered with various organizations 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. 

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 MPP 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 MPP 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 MPP, 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.

Client Story

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.

A young Latino man sits on a block of concrete in a plaza. He wears headphones and looks off into the distance.

Ciudad Juárez

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. southern border. IRAP staff members met with community partners, conducted intakes, and visited shelters.

A photo of a mural with a white outline of Mexico and colorful children's handprints in paint covering the shape. More children's artwork is leaned against the wall under the mural.