El Paso, Texas: On October 19, 2020, following a bench trial by United States Federal District Judge Frank Montalvo, Judge Montalvo ordered Immigration and Customs Enforcement (ICE) to release unredacted documents related to the Migrant Protection Protocols program, MPP, to Diocesan Migrant & Refugee Services, Inc. (DMRS).
The documents confirm the suspicions of immigration advocates regarding the true intention of the MPP program. Additionally, the documents further include an acknowledgement by current Acting Department of Homeland Security Secretary Chad Wolf that the MPP program, commonly referred to as “Remain in Mexico”, alone would not stem the flow of migrants from Central America.
“Despite a memo from Mr. Wolf indicating the program would be unsuccessful, the Trump Administration chose to pursue a program that has resulted in the suffering and in some cases, torture, of individuals forced to wait in Mexico while trying to seek asylum in the United States,” said Melissa M. Lopez, DMRS Executive Director.
In June 2019, following implementation of MPP in the El Paso area, DMRS filed a Freedom of Information Act (FOIA) request as part of the organization’s efforts to represent individuals in the MPP program and obtain a better understanding of the program. ICE failed to respond to the FOIA request. As a result, in August 2019, DMRS filed a federal lawsuit against ICE hoping to compel their response to the FOIA request. After filing of the lawsuit, ICE released to DMRS 38 pages of mostly redacted information.
On October 5, 2020, DMRS vs. ICE went to trial in the U.S. District Court Western District of Texas wherein Judge Montalvo ruled in favor of DMRS and ordered ICE to release the unredacted documents. During the trial, DMRS, through our Attorney, Christopher Benoit, argued that 38 pages of documents did not represent a thorough search of ICE records given the tens of thousands of individuals in the MPP program. Judge Montalvo found ICE’s search to be inadequate, and he additionally ordered ICE to conduct a new search. As a result, DMRS anticipates the release of additional documents in the future.