Biden halts deportations, halts ‘stay in Mexico’ policy


The newly inaugurated Biden administration wasted no time in taking two major steps to dismantle much-criticized Trump-era immigration policies on their first day in office.

The Department of Homeland Security announced that beginning Thursday, it will suspend deportations of certain non-nationals to the United States for 100 days and halt new registrations for the Migrant Protection Protocols policy, also known as the program name “stay in Mexico”.

Acting Department of Homeland Security Secretary David Pekoske said the United States “faces significant operational challenges on the southwest border as it faces the world’s most public health crisis. serious for a century”.

The suspension of some enforcement actions gives the agency leeway as DHS plans to fully review current U.S. immigration programs and policies, Pekoske said in a note returned Wednesday evening.

Pekoske’s memo directed DHS sub-agencies Customs and Border Protection, Immigration and Customs Enforcement, and U.S. Citizenship and Immigration Services “to review and reset enforcement policies and establish interim policies for the civil enforcement while the Department works out its final priorities.”

The department aims to focus its resources “where they are needed most,” Pekoske said. In light of the severe challenges on the southern border, DHS must “augment resources” in the region to ensure “safe, legal, and orderly” processing of immigrants.

“Stay in Mexico” ends

The Trump administration’s controversial “stay in Mexico” policy requiring asylum seekers trying to enter the United States from the southern border to wait in Mexico for US court hearings will be suspended.

The program has enabled around 60,000 migrants to be sent back across the border since the MPP was set up in January 2019. Tens of thousands of people are still stranded in Mexico, awaiting their hearings and living in unsanitary and potentially dangerous situations. Politics has put enormous pressure on Mexico, even more so during the COVID-19 pandemic.

Thousands of other Latin American migrants have pushed their way to Mexico in the last few days. Some told reporters they were heading north because they expect it will be easier to enter the United States under the Biden administration. Others say the economic situation and violence in Honduras have made staying there untenable. The increase in migrants, however, promises even more pressure on Mexico and the US immigration system.

On Sunday, Guatemalan security forces clashed with a caravan of migrants from Honduras. Guatemalan security forces in the southwest of the country tried to prevent thousands of Honduran migrants from heading north towards Mexico and the US border. Some migrants were able to circumvent security forces by leaving main roads, according to Guatemalan officials. Mexico, however, has its own strict border security forces in place, making it difficult for many travelers to cross the country.

Guillermo Díaz, Guatemala’s top immigration official, said at least 7,000 to 8,000 Hondurans entered Guatemala “irregularly”.

Limited path to legalization

Karen Tumlin, founder of the Justice Action Center, an organization providing legal aid to immigrants, called the measure to end the MPP “enormous”.

Tumlin wrote on Twitter that “This confirms Biden-Harris’ commitment to restoring dignity to our asylum system. Here are the critical next steps to address the inhumane impacts of this shameful program.”

However, immigration hardliners such as the American Immigration Reform Federation are already prepared to oppose the Biden administration’s immigration plan.

“We fervently hope that when it comes to handling immigration, the new administration will seek to find common sense policies that will not only serve to improve the post-COVID economic recovery, but will ensure lasting security and prosperity. for the country,” he added. said Dan Stein, president of FAIR, a day before Biden’s inauguration. “President Biden must protect American jobs and not capitulate to special interests pushing radical policies that put Americans last,”

During the MPP moratorium, current non-essential COVID-19 travel restrictions – at the border and in the region – remain in place. But it is not known what will happen to migrants already registered with the MPP.

DHS said, “All current MPP participants should remain where they are, pending further official information from U.S. government officials.”

The Biden administration is also making progress on large-scale changes to US immigration policy. He sent a new immigration bill to Congress on Wednesday.

However, under the proposed changes, immigrants currently outside the United States — likely those still awaiting their court hearings in Mexico and migrants from Honduras and Guatemala — will not be eligible for legal status.

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