Media Contact

Ben Schaefer, media@nyclu.org, 212-607-3372

March 9, 2021

Family Will Safely Pursue Asylum Following MPP Policy Change

NEW YORK – Last week Emma Obando-Funes and her two young children entered New York after a harrowing year-and-a-half in Mexico as a result of the Trump administration’s cruel and misleadingly named “Migrant Protection Protocols” (MPP). Ms. Obando-Funes is a plaintiff in the New York Civil Liberties Union’s ongoing lawsuit seeking relief for asylum-seekers trapped in Mexico as a result of the MPP. While the program was recently suspended by the Biden administration, thousands of people remain trapped in Mexico, waiting for an opportunity to enter into the United States.

“This is an important milestone and a tremendous relief,” said Amy Belsher, staff attorney at New York Civil Liberties Union. “While we’re ecstatic for Ms. Obando-Funes and her family, this moment of victory is tempered by the thousands of other asylum-seekers, including additional clients in our case, who are stuck in dire conditions in Mexico. There’s still an urgent need for action from the administration to quickly bring people here to safely pursue their asylum claims.”

Shortly after a February 2 executive order directing the Department of Homeland Security to review whether to terminate the MPP program, immigration officials considered Ms. Obando-Funes’s petition for parole requesting her family be permitted to pursue their asylum claims in the United States. Ms. Obando-Funes and her children were granted admission into the country on February 17, the first day the new MPP admission system was in operation, as a result of her son’s disability and unique vulnerability to the dangerous conditions in Mexico.

“We feel so grateful to be here safe and sound,” said plaintiff Emma Obando-Funes. “No one should have to go endure what we went through, and the people who are still stuck in Mexico need help.”

Ms. Obando-Funes and her children made the difficult decision to leave their home in Honduras and seek asylum in the United States after receiving death threats. On their journey, they were kidnapped and held for days without food until they paid a ransom. After crossing the border into the United States, they were detained by CBP. However, instead of being released to family members in New York, Ms. Obando-Funes and her children were sent back to Mexico, where they had no option but to take refuge in a migrant camp across the border in Matamoros.

Ms. Obando-Funes and her children remained in the camp for nearly a year, until their parole claim was granted last week. Life in the camp was extremely difficult for the family and especially harmful to one of Ms. Obando-Funes’s sons who has autism and a severe sensory disorder.

The family was received in New York by Ms. Obando-Funes’s sister, a Suffolk County resident. They will stay with her while they pursue their asylum claims in the United States.

The other plaintiffs in the NYCLU’s case are still in Mexico awaiting the adjudication of their claims. All are awaiting an appointment with the U.N. High Commissioner for Refugees, the nonprofit overseeing the MPP asylum admission system, to learn when they might be able to enter the United States and be reunited with their families. During the time the plaintiffs have been in Mexico they have faced violence, intimidation, discrimination, and have had to go into hiding to protect their lives.

“The end of the MPP program is far from an end to the cruelty of our broken immigration system,” said Belsher. “Just because the system will slowly stop imposing family separation and life-or-death circumstances on asylum-seekers and migrants does not mean it is working. Asylum-seekers and immigrants in the United States still face tremendous barriers and challenges to pursuing immigration claims, gaining status, and achieving security and stability. And the Biden administration’s recent announcement stating its intention to return to Obama-era immigration enforcement guidelines still means that deportations and arrests will be the norm. That is unacceptable.”