Will the United States Reestablish the ‘Remain in Mexico’ Policy?

Washington DC – The administration of US President Joe Biden announced on October 15 that it was making plans to bring back a Trump-era asylum policy along the US-Mexico border beginning in mid-November in compliance. of a court order.

In August, a Texas court ordered the United States government to restart the program, called Migration Protection Protocols (MPP), and said the Biden administration had improperly terminated it.

The Department of Homeland Security (DHS) said that “while the court order remains in effect, the Department has been working in good faith to restart MPP.” But he is also working to eventually end the policy through a memorandum “in the coming weeks,” he said.

The announcement was a confusing fact amid an already volatile situation unfolding along the nation’s southern border. Amid a 20-year high of migrant arrivals, the Biden administration has come under pressure from hardline Republican leaders who have held it accountable for the surge in the number. He also faces strong criticism from immigration advocates, who have said the administration is failing to deliver on campaign promises to implement more humane border policies.

What is the MPP?

Biden’s predecessor Donald Trump, who made restricting immigration to the United States a central goal of his administration, created the MPP. The policy went into effect in January 2019.

Commonly known as the “Remain in Mexico” program, it forced asylum seekers at the border to wait for court dates, which were weeks or months away, in Mexico.

At least 70,000 people were subject to the policy, including children. The policy effectively stopped the asylum system. It was heavily criticized by rights groups who argued that it contravened US and international law, and endangered migrants in dangerous border cities.

At least 70,000 people, including children, were subject to the MPP. About 25,000 were released on parole in the US earlier this year, but thousands more dropped their claims. [Paul Ratje/Reuters]

What did the Biden administration do?

On his first day in office, January 20, 2021, Biden stopped accepting new people to the show, fulfilling a campaign promise. His administration then gradually began allowing people who were still waiting in Mexico to come to the United States to continue their claims. More than 25,000 were released on parole in the United States as of February.

The Biden administration officially ended the policy in June 2021 through a memorandum.

What was the answer?

On April 13, 2021, Texas and Missouri, two Republican-led states, defendant the Biden administration arguing that ending MPP was “arbitrary and capricious.”

In August, Matthew Kacsmaryk, a Trump-appointed district court judge in Texas, ruled in favor of the states and ordered the Biden administration to reinstate the policy. the Supreme Court of the United States ruled against the Biden administration, refusing to issue its request to stay the decision saying: “The applicants have not demonstrated a probability of success in claiming that the memorandum that rescinded the Migrant Protection Protocols was not arbitrary or capricious. “.

The states’ lawsuit alleged that ending the MPP is responsible for the increase in the number of arrivals at the border and that the program served as a major deterrent against “weak” asylum applications by “economic migrants.” The lawsuit also argued that the entry of more migrants into the states of Texas and Missouri made them less safe and forced them to spend more taxpayer money on health care, education and housing for the migrants.

Rights groups said the MPP made it difficult for migrants to access asylum in the United States. He also forced them to stay in dangerous border towns in Mexico. [Edgard Garrido/Reuters]

What are rights organizations saying?

Immigration advocates have criticized MPP from its inception. They said the policy made it difficult for asylum seekers to make their cases heard, much less grant them. It also limited his access to a lawyer.

Migrants often waited in dangerous Mexican border cities and towns, many controlled by drug cartels. Many others completely abandoned their claims. As of February 2021, at least 1,544 migrants under the MPP they were murdered, attacked, robbed, kidnapped or raped according to Human Rights First, a rights organization based in the United States.

Eleanor Acer, director of refugee protection at Human Rights First, said the Biden administration has not shown it is dedicated enough to ending MPP, citing that it has not yet issued another termination memorandum.

“If the Biden administration were serious about the total elimination of MPP, it would take a different position in court, it would take the position that this program is illegal, it would have issued a termination memorandum immediately or very shortly after the Supreme Decision of the court, “Acer told Al Jazeera.

The Biden administration is also using another controversial health policy favored by Trump: Title 42. Citing the need to protect the country from further spread of COVID-19, the policy allows for the swift removal of asylum seekers at the border, without giving them the opportunity to file a claim.

What is the Biden administration saying now?

The Biden administration has said it will issue another memorandum to end MPP, but has not set a date. Meanwhile, the administration has said it is complying “in good faith” with the court order requiring the re-implementation of the program.

“DHS will also issue a memo ending MPP,” DHS said in an email to Al Jazeera. “By issuing this new memorandum, DHS intends to address concerns about the previous memorandum that sought to rescind the MPP.”

DHS added that it is currently issuing contracts to build temporary tents near the border where the hearings will take place.

Last month, nearly 15,000 Haitian immigrants gathered under a bridge in South Texas in hopes of seeking asylum. The United States expelled nearly 8,000 back to Haiti under Title 42 [Felix Marquez/AP Photo]

What is the position of Mexico?

The implementation of the MPP depends on the approval and cooperation of the Mexican government.

So far, Mexico has said it is negotiating with the United States on the issue and has presented conditions to resume the program. According to court documents, the Mexican government wants the cases to be closed within six months and for asylum seekers to have adequate access to information about their hearing dates.

In a statement, the Mexican Foreign Ministry said it also wants applicants to have better access to legal representation and for “particularly vulnerable populations” to be exempted from the program.


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