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AILA Doc. No. 19012842 | Dated January 28, 2019
WASHINGTON, DC - Late last week, the Trump administration announced that it would begin to roll-out its "Remain in Mexico" plan. Details were sparse until today, when U.S. Citizenship and Immigration Services (USCIS) published a policy memorandum revealing portions of the plan, which the administration has now dubbed the "Migrant Protection Protocols" (MPP). The MPP alters screening procedures at ports of entry for Central American asylum applicants by having USCIS officers conduct an "assessment" that determines whether applicants can pursue their claims from within the United States or whether they will be forced to do so from Mexico. Notwithstanding the fact that the assessment involves complex questions regarding persecution and torture on legally protected grounds, access to counsel during screening is prohibited.
American Immigration Lawyers Association (AILA) Executive Director Benjamin Johnson responded, "This USCIS assessment process, which is functionally similar to asylum screening, will consist of a lightning quick judgment that will be over before a person newly arriving at the border even understands what asylum is. By blocking access to counsel, USCIS will prevent many families and individuals with legitimate claims for asylum from having a fair shot at protection by curtailing their rights and forcing them to pursue their claims from outside the U.S. where access to legal advice and resources is sparse. Following the implementation of the travel ban and the ensuing chaos at U.S. airports, AILA called on the administration to amend its regulations to allow legal representation during primary and secondary inspection at ports of entry. With the implementation of this new screening process, access to counsel at ports of entry has become even more critical. AILA will continue to fight for the due process rights of asylum seekers."
Cite as AILA Doc. No. 19012842.