(Washington, DC) – Judicial Watch announced today that it filed a Freedom of Information Act (FOIA) lawsuit against the U.S. Department of Homeland Security (DHS) for information on asylum-seekers and other aliens participating in the Migrant Protection Protocols program (MPP) (“remain in Mexico” policy) who have been charged with crimes after entering the United States (Judicial Watch, Inc. v. U.S. Department of Homeland Security (No. 1:21-cv-01927)).
On March 18, 2021, Judicial Watch filed a FOIA request with DHS seeking access to the following information:
Records reflecting the number of enrollees in the Migrant Protection Program who have been charged with crimes after entering the United States under MPP; the nature of the charges; the disposition of the charges; and demographic data of those enrollees charged, such as age, sex, country of origin, etc.
The time frame of the request was identified as January 1, 2021, through March 18, 2021. Judicial Watch filed the lawsuit July 16, after CBP and ICE failed to respond.
The Migrant Protection Protocols program was initiated under President Donald Trump in 2018 and put into effect in early 2019. Under the program, also referred to as “Remain in Mexico,” asylum-seekers and other aliens who arrived at the Southwest Border were required to remain Mexico while U.S. officials processed their immigration claims. The Biden administration suspended the program on January 21, 2021, then terminated it on June 1, 2021. After the program was suspended, DHS announced that beginning on February 19:
DHS will begin processing people who had been forced to “remain in Mexico” under the Migrant Protection Protocols (MPP). Approximately 25,000 individuals in MPP continue to have active cases.
The DHS announcement also said that individuals enrolled in the MPP program who are eligible to enter the United States while their cases are processed would be allowed to enter the U.S. through designated ports of entry at designated times:
We will provide instructions in the coming days for how individuals with active MPP cases may remotely register for in-processing. We will continue to enforce U.S. immigration law and border security measures throughout this process.
In mid-April, Texas, Missouri and Louisiana sued the Biden DHS and immigration agencies for ending MPP and demanded the program be reinstated. When the Texas/Missouri lawsuit was filed, Texas Attorney General Ken Paxton said:
President Biden could immediately remedy the influx of crime pouring across our border by reinstating the Migrant Protection Protocols. Dangerous criminals are taking advantage of the lapse in law enforcement and it’s resulting in human trafficking, smuggling, a plethora of violent crimes, and a massive, unprecedented burden on state and federal programs for which taxpayers must foot the bill.
According to the Louisiana complaint, the Biden administration exceeded its authority by rescinding MPP:
Federal law requires Defendants to take custody of many criminal aliens, including those with final orders of removal, those convicted of drug offenses, and those convicted of crimes of moral turpitude. By refusing to take these criminal aliens into custody, Defendants [the Biden administration immigration agencies] have disregarded non-discretionary legal duties.
In May, it was reported that, “More than 61,000 immigrants who illegally crossed the U.S.-Mexico border have been released into the United States since President Joe Biden took office, according to federal data.” Prior to suspension of MPP, these individuals would have been returned to Mexico to wait while their applications for entry were adjudicated.
“The Biden administration should come clean about crimes committed by aliens as a result of its reckless decision to end the Migration Protection Protocols, a commonsense measure put in place by the Trump administration to try to control the border,” said Judicial Watch President Tom Fitton.
In other actions provoked by the Biden administration border crisis, Judicial Watch in June filed a FOIA lawsuit against the U.S. Department of Health and Human Services (HHS) for COVID-19 technical guidance provided to the Office of Refugee Resettlement relating to illegal aliens released by the U.S. Department of Homeland Security and U.S. Customs and Border Patrol. Fitton said at the time, “The Biden administration secrecy on its border crisis includes stonewalling on the issue of COVID-19 and illegal immigration and controversial refugee resettlement programs.”
On April 30, Judicial Watch filed a FOIA lawsuit against HHS for records about assaults on and abuse of unaccompanied alien children in its custody after it was disclosed that multiple facilities where children are being held are unsafe. Fitton then observed, “We are concerned that the surge of migrants seeking to take advantage of the Biden administration’s lax immigration policies has resulted in the foreseeable abuse of children, as overwhelmed federal authorities are ill-equipped to handle the huge number of children crossing the border.