BIA Decision on In-Absentia Orders for MPP Cases, Matter of J.J. Rodriguez

On January 31, 2020, the BIA issued a decision in Matter of J.J. Rodriguez, 27 I&N Dec. 762. The case concerns proceedings under the Migrant Protection Protocols, or MPP, which force asylum seekers to wait for court hearings under dangerous conditions in Mexico. Under these proceedings, asylum seekers are given court dates in the United States, such as in San Diego, and then taken back to wait in Mexico. They are supposed to present themselves at the border on that date, at which point they will be allowed to enter for the hearing.

The Immigration Judge in Matter of J.J. Rodriguez, evidently concerned with this arrangement being a deprivation of the individual’s due process rights, declined to enter an in-absentia order when the individual did not arrive for the court hearing. The Department of Homeland Security attorneys appealed this decision, and the Board of Immigration Appeals agreed. The practical impact of this decision may be limited, since most likely judges have already been entering in-absentia orders when people fail to appear in cases under the MPP. However, it is another reminder of the continual erosion of due process and the complete lack of concern that the immigration court system has for the individuals unlucky enough to be caught up in it.

Read the full decision here: