The Migrant Protection Protocols (MPP) are a U.S. Government (USG) action whereby citizens and nationals of countries other than Mexico arriving in the United States by land from Mexico -- whether or not at a port of entry -- may be returned to Mexico pursuant to Section 235(b)(2)(C) of the Immigration and Nationality Act (INA) while their U.S. removal proceedings are pending under Section 240 of the INA. The Government of Mexico (GOM) has committed to provide aliens placed into MPP with appropriate humanitarian protections, including immigration documentation and access to education, healthcare and employment. (DHS Press Release - January 24, 2019). (U.S.-Mexico Joint Declaration - June 7, 2019)
The U.S. Department of Homeland Security (DHS) and the U.S. Department of Justice (DOJ) remain committed to resuming removal hearings for aliens subject to MPP as expeditiously as possible. To lend greater certainty in a fluid COVID-19 environment, DHS has maintained close contact with the Department of State (DOS) and GOM and worked with DOJ to identify public health criteria to determine when hearings may resume swiftly and safely. For additional information see the DHS Press Release - July 17, 2020.
Section 235 of the INA addresses the inspection of aliens seeking admission into the United States and provides specific procedures regarding the treatment of those not clearly entitled to admission. Section 235(b)(2)(C) provides that "[i]n the case of an alien...who is arriving on land (whether or not at a designated port of arrival) 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].” Individuals in such removal proceedings have the ability to seek relief or protection from removal, including asylum.
Aliens subject to MPP are placed into removal proceedings under Section 240 of the INA before an immigration judge, just like any other alien in removal proceedings pursuant to Section 240 of the INA. Aliens generally remain in Mexico throughout the duration of their removal proceedings.
When aliens are placed into MPP, they are served with a notice to appear (NTA) with the time and location of their initial court hearing, in addition to an informational “tear sheet” -- provided in English, Spanish, or Portuguese, as appropriate -- instructing them of the date and time to appear at the designated port of entry (POE) where they will be transported or escorted to their immigration court hearing. Aliens placed in Section 240 proceedings, including those in MPP, are provided with a list of pro bono legal service providers specific to the court where their hearings will take place, and aliens in MPP can, at no expense to the government, contact the counsel of their choice.
Since DHS has already served aliens in MPP with NTAs that clearly state which day they are scheduled for court, it is unnecessary for them to wait at or near POEs. Aliens are informed on the tear sheets that they may not attempt to enter the identified POE for their hearings before the designated time on the tear sheets. Aliens are responsible for their own transportation to reach the POE to attend their removal hearings.
At the conclusion of their removal proceedings, aliens who receive final orders of removal are turned over to U.S. Immigration and Customs Enforcement (ICE) Enforcement and Removal Operations (ERO). Aliens who are granted relief or protection from removal, including asylum, will be allowed to remain in the United States consistent with existing laws and policies.
DHS and the DOJ Executive Office for Immigration Review (EOIR) seek to conclude removal proceedings as expeditiously as possible.
During Fiscal Year (FY) 2019, the United States faced a security and humanitarian crisis across the U.S. Southwest Border when nearly a million aliens who entered the United States illegally or without proper documentation were apprehended or encountered by U.S. Customs and Border Protection (CBP). To address this crisis, DHS used all appropriate resources and authorities to secure the borders; enforce immigration and customs laws; facilitate legal trade and travel; counter traffickers, smugglers, and transnational criminal organizations; and interdict drugs and contraband. (DHS Press Release - August 27, 2019)
MPP is a program that helps restore a safe and orderly immigration process by reducing the incentive for aliens to attempt illegal entry and/or make meritless claims for relief or protection from removal in order to be released into the interior of the United States for the pendency of removal proceedings, for which many fail to appear. MPP also ensures that aliens who merit protection receive the relief or protection they need in a timely manner.
With certain exceptions, MPP applies to citizens and nationals of countries other than Mexico arriving in the United States on land from Mexico, who are not clearly admissible and who are placed in removal proceedings under Section 240 of the INA.
Aliens in the following categories are not amenable to MPP:
- Unaccompanied alien children (UACs),
- Citizens or nationals of Mexico,
- Aliens processed for expedited removal,
- Aliens in special circumstances:
- Returning lawful permanent residents (LPRs) seeking admission (subject to INA Section 212)
- Aliens with an advance parole document or in parole status
- Known physical/mental health issues
- Criminals/history of violence
- GOM or USG interest,
- Any alien who is more likely than not to face persecution or torture in Mexico, or
- Other aliens at the discretion of the Port Director or Chief Patrol Agent.
Non-Mexican national or citizen members of mixed-nationality family units may be considered for processing through MPP if doing so maintains family unity. This applies even if one or more member(s) of the family unit might be a nationality that is otherwise not generally amenable to MPP. Every effort is made to maintain the integrity of family units pending completion of removal proceedings, consistent with applicable law and policy. (Supplemental Policy Guidance for Implementation of the Migrant Protection Protocols – December 7, 2020)
Mexican citizens or nationals are not amenable to MPP. (Guiding Principles for Migrant Protection Protocols – January 28, 2019)
In the case of a family member who is a Mexican citizen or national, in order to maintain family unity, the Mexican citizen or national would be allowed to voluntarily withdraw his/her application for admission through a Form I-275 or be voluntarily returned to Mexico with the rest of the non-Mexican citizen/national family unit.
If a Mexican citizen or national (or a parent or legal guardian on behalf of a Mexican citizen or national child) expresses fear of return to Mexico, that individual must no longer be voluntarily returned to Mexico with the rest of the family unit. In that instance, and because the family unit cannot be separated pursuant to MPP, the entire family unit must not be processed for MPP or, if previously processed for MPP, the family unit must be removed from MPP and reprocessed as appropriate. (Supplemental Policy Guidance for Implementation of the Migrant Protection Protocols – December 7, 2020)
Generally, aliens who are determined not to be fit to travel by medical personnel should be excluded from MPP.
Exemptions from MPP for aliens with known physical or mental health issues are decided on a case-by-case basis.
Following CBP’s medical evaluation process -- which should consider potential physical and/or mental health issues related to an alien’s disclosure of personal history -- determinations as to whether an alien is exempt from MPP due to known physical or mental health issues are generally to be made on a case-by-case basis at the local level with supervisory review. The Port Director or Chief Patrol Agent of each location should use his/her discretion to determine amenability on a case-by-case basis considering the totality of the circumstances. Aliens who receive medical clearance and are fit for travel, as determined by medical personnel, are amenable under MPP guidelines unless the Chief Patrol Agent or Port Director determines otherwise. (Supplemental Policy Guidance for Implementation of the Migrant Protection Protocols – December 7, 2020)
Though a particular situation may not in and of itself be considered a physical or mental health issue, conditions related to an alien’s disclosed personal history (e.g., pregnancy, prior illness, or any other disclosed medical condition) should be taken into account during the medical assessment process, and may, on a case-by-case basis, constitute grounds for an alien to be excluded from MPP. (Supplemental Policy Guidance for Implementation of the Migrant Protection Protocols – December 7, 2020) (Guiding Principles for Migrant Protection Protocols– MPP Amenability – December 7, 2020)
If at any time an alien expresses a need for medical attention, or if a U.S. Customs and Border Protection (CBP) agent or officer observes that medical attention is warranted, that alien will be referred to on-site medical staff. The on-site medical staff will both screen the alien and make the determination about his/her immediate medical needs and whether emergent care is required. In this situation, CBP is to follow the guidance issued in its “Enhanced Medical Support Directive.” (CBP Enhanced Medical Support Directive – December 30, 2019)
If an alien who is potentially subject to MPP, or has already been returned to Mexico pursuant to MPP, affirmatively states that he or she has a fear of persecution or torture in Mexico, or a fear of return to Mexico, at any time while he/she is in the United States, U.S. Customs and Border Protection (CBP) refers the alien to U.S. Citizenship and Immigration Services (USCIS) for an MPP assessment interview conducted by an asylum officer.
Aliens continue to have the ability to have retained counsel participate telephonically in USCIS’s MPP non-refoulement assessments – where it does not delay the interview, or as required by court order.
Following the interview, the asylum officer assesses whether it is more likely than not that the alien will face persecution on account of a protected ground (i.e., race, religion, nationality, membership in a particular social group or political opinion), or torture, if returned to Mexico. The asylum officer’s assessment is subject to review by a supervisory asylum officer.
If USCIS makes a positive assessment that the individual is more likely than not to face persecution on account of a protected ground or torture in Mexico, the alien is not processed for MPP and may be processed/re-processed for any other available disposition. An alien who has already been placed into MPP with pending Section 240 proceedings will not be returned to Mexico, but will remain in Section 240 proceedings and will await their immigration court hearings in the United States. Pursuant to the INA and applicable regulations, U.S. Immigration and Customs Enforcement (ICE) determines whether aliens who are not eligible for return to Mexico under MPP are to be maintained in custody or paroled, or if another disposition is appropriate. ICE makes custody determinations for such aliens on a case-by-case basis, considering the facts and circumstances unique to each particular case. An alien who does not establish that it is more likely than not that he or she will face persecution on account of a protected ground or torture in Mexico may be returned to Mexico pending his/her removal proceedings.
If any member of a family unit in MPP expresses a fear of returning to Mexico, then the entire family unit will await the adjudication of that claim before any return to Mexico can proceed, so long as there is not an independent basis to separate members of a family unit. If any member of a family unit establishes that he/she is more likely than not to suffer persecution on account of a protected ground or torture in Mexico, the entire family unit must not be processed for MPP or, if currently in MPP and in the United States together, must be removed from MPP and reprocessed as appropriate.
If any member(s) of a family unit processed under MPP is/are granted relief or protection from removal, the family member(s) (regardless of nationality) not granted relief or protection should be taken into ICE custody. A determination will be made regarding whether to detain or release the alien(s) into the United States pending completion of removal proceedings (including an administrative appeal) of all members of the family unit. (Supplemental Policy Guidance for Implementation of the Migrant Protection Protocols – December 7, 2020)
Yes, aliens may choose to retain their own legal counsel for their Section 240 removal proceedings. Section 240(b)(4)(A) of the INA provides that an alien in removal proceedings before an Immigration Judge “shall have the privilege of being represented, at no expense to the Government, by counsel of the alien’s choosing who is authorized to practice in such proceedings.” Similarly, Section INA 292 provides that “[i]n any removal proceedings . . . the person concerned shall have the privilege of being represented (at no expense to the Government) by such counsel . . . as he shall choose.”
All aliens in MPP are given a list of pro bono legal service providers (whom aliens may contact if they choose) when initially processed. To facilitate access to counsel, aliens in MPP are instructed to arrive at the designated port of entry (POE) at the time and date indicated on the tear sheet, which is a time early enough to be processed at the POE and arrive at court before their scheduled hearings to provide time to meet with their retained attorneys or accredited representatives. Aliens can also communicate with their counsel of choice on their own accord at any other time.
In addition to the resources on this website, the necessary forms from the DOJ Executive Office for Immigration Review (EOIR) are available in immigration court and on the EOIR website. Additionally, DHS understands that several migrant shelters in Northern Mexican cities make the EOIR forms and other Know Your Rights information available.
The length of time needed for a removal hearing is subject to each Immigration Judge’s discretion considering the circumstances of each case. However, aliens should plan to spend the entire day being processed for and attending court. If processes are not concluded that same day, some aliens may have to spend the night in U.S. Customs and Border Protection (CBP) custody and will be returned to Mexico as soon as all processes are concluded.
Immigration courts hear cases involving different aliens. There are other aliens who have court hearings on the same day, so it is not uncommon for aliens to wait for others to be processed at the port of entry (POE) and for other cases to be heard. Aliens will have access to food and water during the time they attend court and are in CBP or U.S. Immigration and Customs Enforcement (ICE) custody.
Aliens should generally expect to have a minimum of two court hearings on different days. However, it is common to have even more court hearings depending on the specific circumstances of each case.
GOM committed to providing documentation for aliens waiting in Mexico under MPP that provides access to education, healthcare and employment. GOM, as well as international and non-governmental organizations, have previously highlighted their efforts to establish new, or further equip existing, migrant shelters to which aliens in MPP also have access. (U.S.-Mexico Joint Declaration - June 7, 2019).
Consistent with DOJ Executive Office for Immigration Review (EOIR) policy and practice, individuals interested in observing immigration court proceedings can do so at either the physical court locations where the immigration judge is located, or at the IHFs in Laredo and Brownsville. Anyone can request access to the IHFs in Laredo and Brownsville by appearing in person at those facilities. Access will be granted on a case-by-case basis and, if at an IHF, in accordance with DHS rules and guidelines, as well as EOIR rules, orders and regulations.
Removal proceedings are generally open to the public in all immigration courts, with limited exceptions, as specified by law. Notably, an alien may be presenting issues in his/her case that relate to sensitive matters that the alien may not want to be made public and are subject to privacy protections. As in any federal building, there are access control measures to ensure the safety of those who appear for official business. Attorneys and accredited representatives are provided the time and private space to meet with clients prior to hearings. (General Services Administration Rules and Regulations Governing Conduct on Federal Property – November 2005) (DOJ Immigration Court Practice Manual) (DOJ EOIR Fact Sheet – February 2017)
DHS may accommodate press requests to visit IHFs that are coordinated through DHS’s Office of Public Affairs and consistent with existing procedures for access to U.S. Customs and Border Protection (CBP) ports of entry (POEs). Access will be granted on a case-by-case basis and, if at an IHF, in accordance with DHS rules and guidelines, as well as DOJ Executive Office for Immigration Review (EOIR) rules, orders and regulations. As in any federal building, there are access control measures to ensure the safety of those who appear for official business. (General Services Administration Rules and Regulations Governing Conduct on Federal Property – November 2005) (DOJ Immigration Court Practice Manual) (DOJ Executive Office for Immigration Review Fact Sheet – February 2017)
Yes. This is a long-standing DHS practice regardless of whether the alien has been processed pursuant to MPP.
For MPP, if the officer/agent is not fluent in the alien’s preferred language, he/she should utilize in-person or telephonic interpretation to complete and serve documentation to the alien, including any explanation of the documents. (Migrant Protection Protocols Guiding Principles – Initial Document Service – December 7, 2020) (Supplemental Policy Guidance for Implementation of the Migrant Protection Protocols – December 7, 2020)
If an MPP-enrolled alien affirmatively states a fear of returning to Mexico while he/she is in the United States, the alien is referred to a U.S. Citizenship and Immigration Services (USCIS) asylum officer for an MPP assessment interview. When the asylum officer conducts the MPP assessment interview, the same protocols apply for language accommodation as in other USCIS fear screenings or non-refoulement interviews. If the alien is unable to proceed effectively in English, and if the asylum officer is unable to proceed competently in a language chosen by the alien, the asylum officer shall arrange for the assistance of an interpreter in conducting the interview.
- The “alien number” is a nine-digit number that begins with the letter “A” and is found in the upper right-hand corner of the notice to appear (NTA). This is how the USG tracks each case. Aliens should have this number available when interacting with U.S. officials.
- Aliens should retain all documents received from U.S. officials. These documents contain important case information.
- Aliens will be allowed to enter the United States to attend immigration court on the date and at the location listed on the NTA or notice of hearing and on the tear sheet. There is no need to wait at or near the port of entry (POE). Aliens will not be allowed to enter for their hearing before this time, and those with an NTA or notice of hearing will not need to wait in line if they report at the designated time and location.
- Aliens may have to return to court for several hearings or may have their hearings rescheduled as part of normal court processes.
- Aliens may inquire with a GOM official about how to access education, employment and healthcare while in Mexico.
- In the event aliens in MPP have an address change while in Mexico, aliens should mail a completed Form EOIR-33, Alien’s Change of Address, to the court where the case is assigned or bring a physical copy to their hearings. (DOJ Form EOIR-33 Immigration Court Listing)
- If an alien believes that DHS policies and activities have violated their civil rights or civil liberties, the alien may file a complaint with the DHS Office for Civil Rights and Civil Liberties (CRCL). More information can be found on the CRCL Compliance Branch website.
- Policy Guidance for Implementation of the Migrant Protection Protocols – January 25, 2019
- Guiding Principles for Migrant Protection Protocols – January 28, 2019
- Implementation of the Migrant Protection Protocols (CBP Implementation Memorandum) – January 28, 2019
- Guidance on Migrant Protection Protocols (CBP OFO Implementation Memorandum) – January 28, 2019
- Guidance for Implementing Section 235(b)(2)(C) of the Immigration and Nationality Act and the Migrant Protection Protocols (USCIS Implementation Memorandum) – January 28, 2019
- Implementation of the Migrant Protection Protocols (ICE Implementation Memorandum) – February 12, 2019
- Migrant Protection Protocols Guidance (ICE ERO Implementation Memorandum) – February 12, 2019
- Supplemental Policy Guidance for Implementation of the Migrant Protection Protocols - December 7, 2020
- Guiding Principles for Migrant Protection Protocols - Initial Document Service - December 7, 2020
- Guiding Principles for Migrant Protection Protocols - MPP Amenability - December 7, 2020
Self-Help Guides to Removal Proceedings and Common Forms of Relief
Guides on the topics below related to removal proceedings can be found on EOIR's Self-Help Materials site in both English and Spanish.
- Notice to Appear
- Accessing an Attorney
- Change of Address and Change of Venue
- Missed Hearing
- Voluntary Departure
- DHS Statement on the Suspension of New Enrollments in the Migrant Protection Protocols Program - January 20, 2021
- Department of Homeland Security Announces Supplemental Guidance for MPP Implementation - December 7, 2020
- Migrant Protection Protocols (CBP Statistics) - August 7, 2020
- Department of Homeland Security and Department of Justice Announce Plan to Restart MPP Hearings – July 17, 2020
- Joint DHS/EOIR Statement on MPP Rescheduling – June 16, 2020
- Joint DHS/EOIR Statement on the Rescheduling of MPP Hearings – May 10, 2020
- Weekly Update: DHS Response to COVID-19 – May 4, 2020
- Joint DHS/EOIR Statement on MPP Rescheduling – April 30, 2020
- Joint DHS/EOIR Statement on MPP Rescheduling – April 1, 2020
- Joint Statement on MPP Rescheduling – March 23, 2020
- DHS Expands MPP To Brazilian Nationals – January 29, 2020
- DHS Begins MPP Returns at Nogales Port of Entry in Arizona – January 2, 2020
- DHS Expands MPP Operations to Eagle Pass – October 28, 2019
- Assessment of the Migrant Protection Protocols – October 28, 2019
- Statement from the Department of Homeland Security following the Acting Secretary’s appearance at Georgetown University this morning – October 7, 2019
- Acting Secretary McAleenan Announces End to Widespread Catch and Release – September 23, 2019
- DHS to Reprogram and Transfer $271 Million to Support Humanitarian and Security Emergency Response – August 27, 2019
- Transcript: Press Conference in Yuma, AZ on August 8, 2019 – August 9, 2019
- Secretary Nielsen, President Trump Assess Humanitarian and Security Emergency Response in Calexico, CA – April 7, 2019
- Secretary Nielsen Orders CBP to Surge More Personnel to Southern Border, Increase Number of Aliens Returned to Mexico – April 1, 2019
- Secretary Nielsen Meets with Mexican Officials on Border Emergency, Travels to Honduras to Meet with Northern Triangle Governments to Address Crisis at Source – March 26, 2019
- Readout from Secretary Nielsen’s Trip to San Diego – January 29, 2019
- Migrant Protection Protocols – January 24, 2019
- Secretary Kirstjen M. Nielsen Announces Historic Action to Confront Illegal Immigration – December 20, 2018
DHS remains committed to using all available tools to address the unprecedented security and humanitarian crisis at the southern border of the United States. At the peak of the crisis in May 2019, there were more than 4,800 undocumented aliens attempting to cross the border into the United States daily.
MPP is a core component of the U.S. Government's efforts to address the migration crisis along the U.S.-Mexico border. MPP streamlines existing avenues for aliens in removal proceedings who qualify for humanitarian protection in the United States to receive it in order to support an orderly and timely completion of U.S. immigration processes. At the same time, MPP provides a deterrent to illegal entry into the United States, and it prevents "catch and release" from DHS custody, including for those whose claims of fear to return to their home countries prove not to be merit relief or protection from an immigration judge.
Further information about how DHS is meeting the intended goals of MPP can be found on the MPP Metrics and Measures Publication Page.