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Migrant Protection Protocols

En español

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.

What gives DHS the authority to implement MPP?

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.

How does the MPP process work?

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.

Why did DHS institute MPP?

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.

Who is subject to MPP?

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.

Are there any exclusions to who is subject to MPP?

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.

(MPP Guiding Principles – January 28, 2019)

What if an alien expresses a fear of return to Mexico?

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. 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.

Do aliens in MPP have access to counsel for their Section 240 removal proceedings?

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.

How do aliens in MPP access legal information if they do not have a lawyer?

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.

For aliens who attend immigration court at one of the DHS-managed immigration hearing facilities (IHFs) in Laredo or Brownsville, Know Your Rights videos are played in the waiting rooms, and DHS permits in-person Know Your Rights presentations to be provided by outside parties at the IHFs consistent with those parties’ resources.

How long will MPP court hearings take?

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.

What services are provided in Mexico for aliens in MPP?

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).

How does the public gain access to the Immigration and Hearing Facilities (IHFs) in Laredo and Brownsville?

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)

How does media gain access to the IHFs in Laredo and Brownsville?

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)

Are there resources for aliens who do not speak English?

Yes. If an alien cannot understand a language spoken by the inspecting officer/agent, DHS requires the use of interpretation services. This is a long-standing DHS practice regardless of whether the alien has been processed pursuant to MPP.

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.

Important Reminders for Aliens in MPP

  • 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.

MPP Guidance Documentation

Resources for Aliens in MPP

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
  • Fraud
  • Change of Address and Change of Venue
  • Bond
  • Missed Hearing
  • Asylum
  • Voluntary Departure
  • Appeal

Additional “Know Your Rights” Information (In English, en Español and em Português)

Press Release Archive

Metrics and Measures

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.

Last Published Date: October 21, 2020

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