McALLEN, TX (Border report) – A class action lawsuit has been filed in Southern California against the Trump administration’s Migrant Protection Protocols program, also known as the “Remain in Mexico” policy, alleging that migrants with disabilities were improperly placed in the program that requires them to wait in Mexico during their months-long asylum hearing process in the United States.
Several nonprofits representing dozens of asylum seekers filed the lawsuit Monday afternoon in U.S. District Court for the Southern District of California. This is believed to be the first class action lawsuit challenging the MPP as carrying out discriminatory practices on the basis of disability and the defendants “(continuing) to refuse to exempt” disabled migrants from the scheme, according to the trial.
The lawsuit alleges that the Trump administration violates the Administrative Procedure Act by failing to follow its own stated policy, according to the lawsuit filed on behalf of at least 22 disabled migrants and their families by the Texas Civil Rights Project, and the Civil Rights Education and Enforcement Center, and with the support of non-profit organizations Lawyers for Good Government Foundation and Al Otro Lado.
The plaintiffs include migrants with physical and mental disabilities, including a 14-year-old amputee; a 34-year-old woman with a brain tumour; a 13-year-old boy with only one lung; a 7-year-old with a heart murmur; a 47-year-old woman with vision loss; a 7-year-old child with seizures; a 9-year-old boy with autism and epilepsy; and a 20-year-old deaf man.
Acting Homeland Security Secretary Chad Wolf and Acting U.S. Customs and Border Protection Commissioner Mark Morgan are named as defendants in the lawsuit.
A judge did not certify the class for trial Tuesday. The lawsuit was filed in California “because the complaint is about people being returned to Mexico through the Borderlands, not just through Texas,” Ivy Le, press officer for the Texas Civil Rights Project, told Border Report.
“The ‘stay in Mexico’ policy is inherently inappropriate and violent for any asylum seeker, but it is especially dangerous and illegal for people with disabilities,” said Erin Thorn Vela, senior counsel for the Texas Civil Rights Project, based in San Juan, Texas. “Our lawsuit demands that the Trump administration comply with its own stated policy. But let’s be clear, this policy has created a humanitarian catastrophe for tens of thousands of people who have the legal right to seek asylum but who have effectively been denied that right by the actions of this administration.
Under the MPP, DHS officials have the right to exempt migrants from “vulnerable populations on a case-by-case basis,” according to the DHS website. But Monday’s lawsuit cites another case filed in May in Massachusetts against the MPP in which a document titled “Muster MPP Guiding Principles” was entered into evidence, which states that migrants “with physical and mental health issues known” should not be placed in the MPP. .
“After countless hours pleading with Customs and Border Protection to protect our clients with disabilities or with serious and emerging medical needs by processing their asylum hearings safely in the United States, it was clear that we had to take additional measures.” said Charlene D’Cruz, director of the Project Corazon Border Rights program at Lawyers for Good Government. “We are honored to join this esteemed group of immigration advocates and attorneys in bringing this lawsuit, enforcing essential protections for people with disabilities and their legal right to seek asylum.”
About 600 migrants placed in MPP are currently living in a dirty tent encampment in Matamoros, Mexico, across the Rio Grande from Brownsville, Texas, after being sent there to wait during their immigration process to the United States. United. At the beginning of last year, the camp had more than 4,000 asylum seekers, but this number is decreasing day by day, as many migrants have left since no US immigration hearings are held during the pandemic. of coronavirus, and no new migrants are added to the camp. Volunteers tell Border Report that there are only 600 migrants currently living in the camp.
Since the Trump administration in July 2019 began implementing the MPP, Border Report has visited the camp several times and seen wheelchairs in the camp, as well as blind and deaf disabled children, and seriously ill adults. disabled.
Prior to travel restrictions put in place to halt the spread of COVID-19, D’Cruz regularly waited on the International Bridge Bridge pleading with CBP officials to allow exemptions for certain families with health and mental health issues.
U.S. Representative Joaquin Castro, D-Texas, chairman of the Congressional Hispanic Caucus, was part of a January delegation of 17 federal lawmakers who visited the camp and successfully called for the release of a 6-year-old Salvadoran girl with special needs. lived in the camp.
If elected president, former Vice President Joe Biden has said he would dismantle the MPP program.
CBP Commissioner Morgan, who traveled to South Texas last week with Wolf, praised the program, saying “the MPP was the driving factor that led to the end of the capture and release and through this network of initiatives, policies and tools, we have been able to regain the integrity of the immigration system.
Sandra Sanchez can be reached at Ssanchez@borderreport.com