Overview of the Migrant Protection Protocols

This past month, the Supreme Court upheld the Migrant Protection Protocols instituted under the Trump administration. This set of procedures applies to individuals entering or seeking admission to the US from Mexico, and requires that they return to Mexico to wait out their immigration proceedings. While the US government has stated that the Mexican government will “provide them with all appropriate humanitarian protections,” this massive influx of at-risk individuals has only furthered the humanitarian crisis at the border. Living in unsanitary encampments without access to appropriate food and water supplies, individuals awaiting decisions on their cases are put in situations of severe danger. 

The Trump administration has staked the legitimacy of these protocols in Section 235(b)(2)(C) of the Immigration and Nationality Act (INA), which reads “in the case of an alien  . . . who is arriving on land from a foreign territory contiguous to the U.S.,” the Secretary of Homeland Security “may return the alien to that territory pending a [removal] proceeding under section 240” of the INA.” The administration has then used this “legal” backing to bar individuals coming from Mexico that are categorized as not being clearly admissible. The protocols do not apply to unaccompanied children or individuals in expedited removal proceedings. 

The most drastic change found in the protocols is that individuals who are attempting to enter the US illegally, lacking documentation, or claiming asylum will no longer be able to safely await their proceedings. While the Department of Homeland Security (DHS) notes that individuals may eventually enter the US if called for a hearing, the extreme caseload means that the probability of this happening is extremely low. Furthermore, individuals under the Migrant Protection Protocols are not provided with attorneys by DHS, lowering their chances of admission even further. The Migration Protection Protocols are an attempt to further integrate the Trump administration’s xenophobic policy objectives into our nation’s immigration system, and its impacts are too severe to ignore. 

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