On Wednesday, American Oversight filed suit against the Department of Homeland Security over its failure to release records that could shed light on the creation of and potential influences behind the Migrant Protection Protocols (MPP), the Trump administration policy requiring asylum-seekers at the southern border to wait in Mexico for their claims to be processed.
In September 2019, American Oversight submitted a Freedom of Information Act (FOIA) request seeking communications between political appointees and certain anti-immigrant groups, including several that have been condemned as hate groups by organizations like the Southern Poverty Law Center. More than three years later, DHS has still failed to release these records.
“The public has the right to see what Trump-era officials were discussing with extremist anti-immigrant groups and how those alliances may have impacted the ‘Remain in Mexico’ program,” said American Oversight Executive Director Heather Sawyer. “The Department of Homeland Security should not be dragging its feet over records related to a policy that had significant human rights impacts on migrants seeking refuge within our borders.”
MPP, commonly known as the “Remain in Mexico” policy, forced asylum-seekers, including children, to wait in dangerous migrant camps along the border where they faced violence and limited access to legal representation. The Biden administration announced the end of the policy in 2021, facing numerous legal challenges over the decision.
American Oversight’s FOIA request seeks correspondence of political appointees at DHS, Immigration and Customs Enforcement, Customs and Border Protection, and Citizenship and Immigration Services, including the emails of then acting DHS Secretary Kevin McAleenan and his successor, Chad Wolf. American Oversight also seeks officials’ communications with anti-immigrant groups such as the Federation for American Immigration Reform, Center for Immigration Studies, and Heritage Foundation, among other groups.
American Oversight has received indication that such records do exist and involve multiple other government agencies. In filing this suit, American Oversight is seeking the release of these documents after undue delay.
Wednesday’s lawsuit comes as Title 42 — another Trump-era border policy that turned away migrants at the border — has come to an end, with some conservative leaders calling for a reinstatement of MPP despite opposition from the Mexican government and the policy’s inhumane impact on migrants.
In April 2021, American Oversight filed a separate lawsuit against DHS for the release of analyses and briefing documents related to the creation or implementation of MPP.
Today’s complaint is available here.
More information about American Oversight’s investigation into MPP is available here.
Part of Investigation: