On February 24, the Sheller Center for Social Justice at Temple University Law School and the Washington Office on Latin America (WOLA) announced the release of a new series of Annotated Table of Contents (ATOCs) for lawyers supporting cases of asylum seekers fleeing Central America’s Northern Triangle region. These detailed and compelling resources come at an opportune moment, as the Biden administration begins slowly winding down the “Remain in Mexico” program (formally known as the Migrant Protection Protocols, or MPP) which forced over 70,000 asylum seekers to wait in Mexico for their immigration hearings.
As the U.S. asylum system gradually reopens at the border, these new ATOCs can serve as crucial tools for asylum lawyers and their clients to bolster their arguments about country conditions in the Northern Triangle region.
The new resources, supplementing previous instrumental ATOCs, outline the dangers concerning the persecution of Indigenous peoples in Honduras and Guatemala; the high-risk security situation of human rights defenders and journalists in El Salvador, Guatemala, and Honduras; the distinctive hazards faced by asylum seekers currently enrolled in the MPP program; and updated materials on state complicity in these serious crimes. Another ATOC focuses on the persecution of human rights defenders and journalists in Mexico and the government’s inability or unwillingness to protect this population.
The end of MPP is only a start to dismantling the worst of the Trump administration’s anti-asylum policies. Since the onset of the pandemic, thousands of individuals from Mexico, Guatemala, Honduras, and El Salvador have been turned back into Mexico, particularly through an abuse of public health authority known as Title 42 expulsions, without a chance to request asylum. There are also over 16,000 people who have placed their names on waitlists in Mexican border towns in order to request asylum at a U.S. port of entry. The U.S. immigration court system is facing an unprecedented backlog with about 1.3 million pending cases, which means in the current conditions, asylum seekers will have to wait years for a final resolution of their cases.
As the Biden administration continues to address the devastating faults in the U.S. asylum system, more opportunities for individuals to apply for asylum and continue with their cases will become more available. The new ATOCs published by the Sheller Center and WOLA provide expert research for asylum attorneys and their clients to underscore the nuances of country conditions and fortify claims of the dire need to seek protection in the United States
In addition to these new resources, we have published ATOCs on the inability to internally relocate, extortion of small business owners, as well as gang recruitment, domestic violence and gender-based harms, and persecution of members of the LGBT+ community for Guatemala, El Salvador and Honduras.