SAN DIEGO — Migrants seeking to enter the United States will again have to stay in Mexico pending immigration hearings, as the Biden administration reluctantly announced plans Thursday to comply with a court order and agree to the terms set by Mexico to resume Trump-era politics.
Mexico’s foreign relations secretary said Mexico would allow returns, starting next week, in light of US concessions “for humanitarian reasons and for temporary stays”.
Relaunching the “Stay in Mexico” policy falls under a court order even as the Biden administration maneuvers to end it in a way that survives legal scrutiny. President Joe Biden scrapped the policy, but a lawsuit by Texas and Missouri forced him to reinstate it, subject to Mexico’s acceptance.
About 70,000 asylum seekers have been subject to the policy, which President Donald Trump introduced in January 2019 and which Biden suspended on his first day in office.
Illegal border crossings Suddenly falls after Mexico, facing the threat of higher tariffs from Trump, in 2019 agreed to the rapid expansion of the policy. Asylum seekers faced major violence while waiting in Mexico and faced a host of legal hurdles, such as accessing lawyers and case information.
The migrants are expected to be returned from Monday to a border town and soon after to three others, US officials said. These are crossings from San Diego and Texas to El Paso, Laredo and Brownsville. The sequence remains to be determined.
Homeland Security Secretary says policy has ‘endemic flaws’
The Department of Homeland Security said Thursday that he was acting to comply with a court order, but that Secretary Alejandro Mayorkas believes the policy “has endemic flaws, imposed unjustifiable human costs, diverted resources and personnel from other priority efforts and does not failed to address the root causes of irregular migration”.
The dual announcement follows intense talks between the United States and Mexico after Trump-appointed U.S. District Judge Matthew Kacsmaryk in Amarillo, Texas, ordered the policy reinstated, subject to participation. from Mexico.
The new iteration of the policy, presented to reporters by Biden administration officials who spoke on condition they were not named, includes major additions and changes demanded by Mexico.
All migrants subject to the policy will be vaccinated against COVID-19. Adults will receive the Johnson & Johnson vaccine, which requires only one injection. Children who are eligible under US guidelines will receive the Pfizer vaccine, with a second shot when they come to the US for their first hearings.
The United States will try to settle the cases within 180 days, a response to Mexico’s concerns that it will languish. The Department of Justice assigns 22 immigration judges to work exclusively on these cases.
U.S. authorities will ask migrants if they fear being sent back to Mexico instead of relying on them to raise concerns spontaneously. If migrants express fear, they will be checked and given 24 hours to find a lawyer or representative.
The United States works to keep migrants safe
The Biden administration is working to keep migrants safe on their way to and from court, including in Mexico. Migrants returning from Laredo and Brownsville, where Mexican border towns are particularly dangerous, will be moved to places further inland in Mexico.
Migrants from countries in the Western Hemisphere will be eligible. US officials did not specify how many will be processed daily. The administration has kept in place another Trump-era policy that allows it to deport Central Americans to Mexico on the grounds of preventing the spread of COVID-19.
Migrants will have the opportunity to meet lawyers before each hearing. The State Department is working with Mexico on locations for video and telephone access to lawyers in the United States
Mexico says unaccompanied children, pregnant women and others should be exempt
The changes reflect many of the conditions Mexico laid out in a press release last week. Mexico also said “vulnerable” people should be exempt, including unaccompanied children, pregnant women, people with physical or mental illnesses, the elderly, indigenous peoples and members of the LGBTQ community.
“The Mexican government reaffirms its commitment to the rights of migrants as well as safe, orderly and regulated migration,” Mexico’s foreign relations secretary said in a statement confirming that the country had accepted the amendments and additions of the law. Biden administration.
Mexico is also seeking funds from the United States for shelters and other organizations to dramatically increase support for migrants waiting in Mexico.
Many U.S.-based legal aid groups that have represented pending asylum seekers in Mexico say they will no longer take such cases, raising questions about how the U.S. can satisfy the Mexico’s insistence on better access to a lawyer. Administration officials say they believe there are enough other lawyers who will represent asylum seekers returned to Mexico.