The United States makes another attempt to end the ‘Remain in Mexico’ program

The administration of US President Joe Biden took steps, for the second time, to end the Migration Protection Protocols (MPP), a policy initiated by his predecessor Donald Trump that forced asylum seekers to wait in Mexico for their court hearings. .

Homeland Security Secretary Alejandro Mayorkas said in a memo issued Friday that the policy, also known as “Remain in Mexico” likely contributed to a decrease in the number of migrants crossing the US-Mexico border in 2019, but it also unnecessarily exposed people to danger.

“I have determined that the MPP must be terminated,” Mayorkas said in the memo. “In reaching this conclusion, I acknowledge that the MPP probably contributed to reducing migratory flows. But it did so by imposing substantial and unjustifiable human costs on people who were exposed to harm while waiting in Mexico. “

Republican leaders blame President Joe Biden for the increase in the number of migrants arriving at the US-Mexico border. Human rights groups say Biden hasn’t done enough to reverse Trump-era rules that endanger migrants [File: Jose Luis Gonzalez/Reuters]

However, the termination is not expected to take effect immediately as the fate of the policy is tied to an ongoing court battle. US-based news site The Hill said the memo is intended to express the administration’s “rationale” for wanting to end the policy.

The Biden administration had formally terminated the program through a DHS memorandum in June. But two states, Texas and Missouri, sued the administration for the “arbitrary” termination of the policy. In August, a Texas court ruled in favor of the states and ordered the administration to reinstate the MPP.

The Biden administration appealed that decision. The United States Supreme Court refused to block the Texas judge’s ruling.

The Department of Homeland Security (DHS) says this second memo addresses some of the issues raised by the court regarding the first memo, but cannot go into effect until a court-ordered injunction is lifted.

The move came when Biden was under pressure from all sides. Republican leaders have said that the rescission of the program has led to an increase in the number of arrivals, which in recent months has reached a 20-year high. They said Biden’s policies are to blame.

Trump, who implemented a series of anti-immigration measures while in office, created the MPP in 2019. At least 70,000 people, including children, were subject to the policy. Thousands of people waited in dangerous cities and border towns in Mexico controlled by drug cartels. Many others abandoned their claims.

On his first day in office, Biden signed an executive order that began the gradual termination of the program. His administration has also continued to rely on Title 42, a policy used by Trump during the pandemic that allows border officials to quickly remove asylum seekers at the border back to Mexico or their home country, for health reasons, without the possibility of submitting an application. a claim.

Immigration advocates have said that Biden has not done enough to reverse Trump-era policies along the border, which have effectively blocked asylum in the United States. They also said the second termination memo is overdue.

Human Rights First, a US-based group, said the administration must immediately end the use of Title 42, as well as ensure that MPP is permanently terminated.

The Biden administration has upheld Title 42, a policy Trump implemented last year that allows asylum seekers to be swiftly removed back to Mexico or their home country. [File: David J Phillip/AP Photo]

“The Biden administration should take other urgent steps to ensure that Remaining in Mexico finally ends, rather than restarting, and also to end its use of the other Trump administration policy, known as Title 42, which returns people seeking refugee protection from the same extreme violence described in this termination memorandum, ”Eleanor Acer, director of refugee protection for Human Rights First told Al Jazeera in an email.

The group has tracked more than 1,500 instances of attacks and kidnappings of people subjected to the MPP and said: “There is no way to make Remaining in Mexico fair, safe, humane or consistent with United States refugee law.”

New Jersey Senator Bob Menendez welcomed the move on Friday. He said the policy had forced tens of thousands of people to live in makeshift refugee camps in dangerous cities in Mexico, doing nothing to address, let alone solve, the region’s migration challenges.

“Forcing those fleeing for their lives to be exposed to increased risk of kidnapping, extortion, trafficking, rape and even murder is completely inconsistent with what we strive to be as a nation,” Menéndez said in a written statement. “This program should be permanently scrapped along with the many other remaining Trump administration policies intentionally designed to punish and deter refugees from legally seeking safety in the United States.”

Earlier this month, the administration said it was complying in “good faith” with the Texas court order and was taking steps to reinstate the program by mid-November. He said he was in negotiations with the Mexican government, which had presented new conditions.

Mexico said it wanted the cases to be concluded within six months and for asylum seekers to have better access to legal representation and information about their hearing dates.

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