Washington— Biden administration officials announced on Jan. 3 additional legal aid for migrants seeking asylum in the United States who are forced to stay in Mexico under a Trump-era policy that is hard to revoke.
Even as the administration seeks its own way to make improvements to migrant protection protocols, or the “Stay in Mexico” policy, government officials have asked the Supreme Court to step in and stop it. The policy, also known as MPP, has asylum seekers waiting across the southern border until their case can be heard in US immigration courts.
Immigrant supporters have long complained about the danger and conditions migrants face while waiting in dangerous border towns.
But US government officials said they now have a system in place to transport migrants safely to shelters and provide them with access to legal representation, two of the main complaints about the policy.
In 2018, with cooperation from Mexico, the Trump administration implemented the policy, seeking to deter asylum seekers from entering the United States.
President Joe Biden suspended the MPP as soon as he took office in 2020, then officially ended it. But his administration was forced to implement it again in early December 2020 after a court ruled authorities failed to end it properly. The Supreme Court agreed. On December 13, the 5th United States Circuit Court of Appeals closed the Biden administration’s final appeal to end it.
Since the Biden administration reinstated the policy at a port of entry in El Paso, Texas, in early December, more than 200 migrants and asylum seekers have been forced to remain across the border, according to Department of Homeland Security figures.
Since then, the policy has expanded to various entry points along the border and the administration has tried to portray it as more humane than before, saying it has also engaged Mexican authorities to offer conditions safer for migrants.
The head of the United States Conference of Catholic Bishops’ migration committee, Auxiliary Bishop Mario E. Dorsonville of Washington, said in December that the best way forward was to end the MPP.
“We are deeply appalled by the re-application of the MPP,” he said. “Unfortunately, the administration’s (Biden’s) attempts to make this program ‘more humane’ — however well-intentioned — will not remedy its inherent flaws, or mitigate its inevitable toll in human lives.”