WASHINGTON — A divided Supreme Court on Tuesday required the president Joe Biden administration to reinstate controversial immigration policy which forces migrants to wait in Mexico while US authorities process their asylum claims.
Biden asked the Supreme Court to intervene after the New Orleans-based US Court of Appeals for the 5th Circuit ruled on his administration improperly halted Trump-era immigration policy shortly after his inauguration. Republican attorneys general in Texas and Missouri filed a lawsuit in April to reinstate the program.
A conservative High Court majority said in a brief order late Tuesday that the Biden administration had failed to demonstrate that the decision to end the scheme was not “arbitrary and capricious”. The court’s three liberal associate justices, Stephen Breyer, Sonia Sotomayor and Elena Kagan, would have allowed the administration to pursue its suspension of the program.
The White House and Justice Department declined to comment.
The Department of Homeland Security said in a statement Tuesday that it “regrets” the Supreme Court’s decision but that the department will “comply with the order in good faith.” The ministry said it was engaging with Mexican officials about the program.
The Biden administration previously told the Supreme Court that restarting the program would create a “diplomatic and humanitarian crisis.” The administration had asked the High Court to temporarily block the lower court’s order while the underlying legal battle continues over how it stopped the scheme.
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The Trump administration implemented the Migrant Protection Protocols program in January 2019 as part of its effort to limit immigration – legal and illegal – to the US-Mexico border and end what critics are calling “capture and release” policies. At the end of 2020, the Trump administration enrolled 68,000 people in the programaccording to court records.
The program has allowed the United States to send migrants, including those from Central America, to Mexico while they wait for an immigration judge to review their case. A federal district court in Texas found the policy had a chilling effect, leading to a significant reduction in encounters with law enforcement along the country’s southern border.
But others question whether the reduction was driven by politics or other factors. And critics say the program has left migrants in dangerous conditions as they wait for the US immigration system to catch up with rising asylum claims.
A group of immigrant rights advocates and former immigration judges told the High Court this week that the policy “was a humanitarian disaster” that left asylum seekers “murdered, raped, kidnapped, extorted and forced to live in squalid conditions where they faced significant procedural hurdles”. to present their claims for protection in a meaningful way. »
State attorneys general tell the court that the Biden administration’s decision was ‘arbitrary and capricious’ and violated the Administrative Procedure Act, which sets standards for how federal agencies develop regulations and engage in decision making. Similar procedural claims have been frequently raised against the Trump administration.
“The Biden administration was right to cancel Trump’s return to Mexico policy, the purpose of which was to punish people seeking asylum by trapping them in miserable and dangerous conditions,” said Omar Jadwat, director of the ACLU’s Immigrant Rights Project, which had filed a Supreme Court brief supporting the Biden administration in the case.
“The government must take all available steps to end this illegal program completely, including ending it with a fuller explanation,” Jadwat said. “What he must not do is use this decision as a cover to walk away from his commitment to restoring a fair asylum system.”
But at least some Republicans applauded the court order. GOP House Leader Kevin McCarthy called it “wise” in a tweet and said it should serve as a “reminder” to the Biden administration to “take U.S. border security seriously.”
The Supreme Court has sided with the government against immigrants in several cases during its last term. A unanimous court halted a 30-year-old program to foreign nationals whose countries are ravaged by war or natural disasterruling in July that his temporary protection from deportation does not guarantee a more permanent stay.
A 5-3 majority voted in March against an immigrant who had been living in the country illegally for 25 years and who claimed he wrongfully faces deportation for using a fake social security card. The court found that the immigrant had failed to meet the burden required to prove that he should have been allowed to present his case to avoid deportation.