Arizona official defends ‘stay in Mexico’ policy Biden wants to end


Emilie Sacia

Cronkite News

The director of Arizona’s Department of Homeland Security told a panel of lawmakers on Wednesday that migrant protection protocols, also known as the “stay in Mexico” policy for immigrants, help keep people safe. Arizona residents.

Tim Roemer told a House Homeland Security subcommittee that the policy, which was ordered by the courts after the Biden administration tried to end it, allows border agents to pass “less time chasing the same trafficker, smuggler and coyotes”.

“When applied correctly, the MPP helps protect the lives of all communities in Arizona and those across the country,” said Romer.
“The MPP gives federal law enforcement the ability to arrest people who take advantage of the asylum system and makes the system work better for those who need it.”

But there’s no way to properly enforce the law, federal officials said the hearing.
They repeated the administration’s concerns that the “stay in Mexico” policy is counterproductive and inhumane to migrants, who may face crime and disease when forced across the border.

“The MPP is not aligned with the values ​​of this administration and imposes an unjustifiable human cost on migrants and diverts resources from larger efforts that seek to address the root causes of irregular migration,” Blas said. Nuñez-Neto, the Acting Assistant Secretary of Homeland Security for Border and Immigration Policy.

The hearing took place the same day protesters, including several from Arizona, gathered outside the White House to accuse Biden of not doing enough to protect immigrants.

“He’s the one who decided to implement this policy with the rest in Mexico,” said Arisaid Gonzalez, an Arizona native who serves as director of DC area campaigns for United We Dream, which organized Wednesday’s rally. “He had the opportunity to take it off and he didn’t, so he’s definitely part of the problem.”

The MPP was unveiled in January 2019 by the Trump administration. Under politics,
border officials accepted the application of any migrant who showed up at the border seeking asylum – but then sent that immigrant back to wait in Mexico while their case was reviewed.

A year later, as the COVID-19 pandemic hit, the MPP was combined with Title 42, a law that allows the United States to turn away immigrants who pose a potential health risk.

Critics said both policies posed serious risks to the health and safety of migrants by forcing them to live in makeshift camps with poor sanitary conditions and little protection from criminals who were free to steal, rape, threaten and, in some cases, kill. Many migrants came from countries other than Mexico, leaving them with few options when turned away.

“We are very concerned about both the policy of staying in Mexico and the misuse of Title 42,” said Eleanor Acer, senior director of refugee protection at Human Rights First. “Under these two policies, which originated under the Trump administration, the United States and now the Biden administration return people seeking asylum to places where their lives and safety are at risk.”

Biden retained the title 42, much to the chagrin of immigration advocates. But he tried to get rid of the MPP shortly after taking office, issuing a Executive Decree
on February 2, 2021, to suspend the program, which was followed five months later by a memorandum from Homeland Security officially ending it.

Homeland Security Secretary Alejandro Mayorkas justified termination
saying that the MPP has failed to improve border security or management, divert resources from other border missions and expose migrants to a “lack of stable access to housing, income and security”. This could cause some migrants to abandon “potentially meritorious protection claims”.

Texas and Missouri have filed suit, claiming that ending the MPP would mean an influx of immigrants into their states, while crushing DHS’s detention capacity, among other concerns. A U.S. District Court judge in North Texas agreed and in August ordered DHS to make a “good faith” effort to reinstate the program.

DHS restarted
the program, even as it renewed its efforts to suppress it. The Supreme Court said last month it would hear the government’s request that it should be allowed to end the program, speeding up arguments for April.

In the meantime, the Biden administration has made two major changes to the program.

Where migrants previously had to tell officers they feared returning to Mexico, officers are now required to ask migrants. And the standard of proof needed to “demonstrate a reasonable possibility of persecution or torture in Mexico,” has been lowered, said Jessica Bolter, associate policy analyst at the Migration Policy Institute.

Roemer acknowledged the humanitarian concerns about the MPP. But he said these had to be weighed against the dangers of a wide-open asylum system for both migrants and Arizona residents.

“The MPP allows authorities to take meaningful action as opposed to the capture and release tactics of the past which are unfortunately becoming all too real today,” he said. It allows border officials to focus their activities on the worst actors, “effectively protecting Arizona and America from dangerous drugs and transnational criminal organizations that continue to prey on vulnerable populations.”

But for Ana, an undocumented immigrant from Arizona who was part of the rally outside the White House on Wednesday, the only real solution will be comprehensive immigration reform. Despite Biden’s promise to push through the reform, protesters noted that there have been 2 million deportations so far under his administration.

“I’m here because we just hear the same rhetoric, they always say promises and they never keep their promises,” Ana said, speaking in Spanish through a translator. “So that’s a lot of failures on their side.”

One of the Department of Homeland Security officials, Blas Nuñez-Neto, said the court-ordered migrant protection protocols are a flawed political program and that the agency believes it should be terminated.

The MPP requires Mexican migrants seeking asylum to remain in Mexico while their documents are processed, but many advocates have documented the harm, separation and death of those who must comply with the program.

“These flaws include the fact that it has imposed unjustifiable human costs on migrants, subverted the asylum system, diverted resources and personnel from other priority efforts and failed to address root causes. root causes of irregular migration,” he said in his opening statement.

Nuñez-Neto is acting assistant secretary for border and immigration policy at the US Department of Homeland Security.

Republicans on the House Homeland Security Subcommittee were appalled to hear DHS officials criticize the program, also called the “stay in Mexico” policy.

“Why would anyone expect DHS to implement this in good faith?” asked the top Republican on the panel, Clay Higgins of Louisiana. “We expect compliance with the law.”

The program was implemented under the Trump administration in 2019. The Biden administration sought to end the program in June 2021, but the U.S. District Court for the Northern District of Texas determined in Texas vs. Biden
that the termination notice was not issued in accordance with the Administrative Procedure Act and directed the Department of Homeland Security “to enforce and implement the MPP in good faith”, which the agency has made.

Nuñez-Neto and Emily Mendrala, assistant assistant secretary for Western Hemisphere Affairs at the US State Department, both said the MPP policy was still in place and being implemented.

Mendrala said one of the program’s flaws is that many “MPP enrollees fell prey to criminal groups when they returned to Mexico.”

Representative Andrew Clyde, a Republican from Georgia, asked Mendrala if she supported the program.

“It’s the law of the land,” Clyde said, adding that he thinks it’s a fair program.

She said the administration has made it clear that it does not support the program, but will continue to implement it as required by the court.

Republican witness Tim Roemer, director of the Arizona Department of Homeland Security, defended the program and said it helped “keep the border situation under control.”

“Unfortunately, the reversal of these policies by the Biden administration has eroded the progress made in securing the border under the previous administration to make a political statement while putting public safety at risk,” he said. declared.

The chair of the Border Security, Facilitation and Operations Subcommittee, Rep. Nanette Diaz Barragán, a California Democrat, said the border was not open, as Republicans on the panel and Roemer said, at because of Title 42, which allows the government to prevent non-nationals from entering the country during a health crisis, such as the COVID-19 pandemic.

“This idea that the border is open is completely wrong,” she said. The United States should “return to the process of what is legal in this country, and what is legal in this country is to allow migrants to come to a port of entry,” she added. .

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