Officers were turning more than 1,000 people a day across the southern border at the height of President Trump’s “stay in Mexico” policy.
Now the program is under President Biden, who a federal judge forced to restart migrant protection protocols, the official name of the policy.
Mr. Biden is far from up to the task.
In January, the program enrolled just 13 people a day and evicted an average of eight people a day. That’s out of nearly 5,000 encounters a day.
“No one could call this current effort to reimplement the MPP a genuine good faith effort,” Rep. Clay Higgins, Republican of Louisiana, told Homeland Security Department officials during a reprimand at a court hearing. Congress this month.
Senator James Lankford, Republican of Oklahoma, visited a deputies registration center in January. He marveled at the massive taxpayer-funded complex of six immigration courtrooms, 120 meeting rooms and other spaces designed to help process migrants who have said they fear returning to their countries. of origin. At the time of his visit, authorities had assessed 60 people and admitted 57 of them.
The MPP began in January 2019, but ramped up that summer as the Trump administration grappled with rising borders.
Mexico, under threat of severe sanctions, agreed to take back more people under the program. Border Patrol arrests fell 70% in September, and the number of illegal immigrant families fell even faster.
The Biden administration suspended the program early last year, and this summer decided to cancel it altogether. This opened the doors to tens of thousands of migrants stranded in Mexico under the program.
A federal judge ruled that the revocation was illegal and ordered Homeland Security to relaunch the program “in good faith.”
Brandon Judd, chairman of the National Border Patrol Council, said the MPP was a critical part of resolving the 2019 outbreak.
“Under the Trump administration, we were enrolling between 2,000 and 3,000 people a day at the MPP,” he said. “The reason it was 2,000 to 3,000 is because that’s what we were apprehending per day. … That’s why the number of crossings dropped.
Mr Judd said it was difficult to reconcile the current figures with the judge’s request for a good faith effort to revive the scheme.
“We disapprove of this program, and the president and secretary have made it clear that the MPP is not aligned with the values of this administration. And actually diverts some of our important priorities that we believe will have a similar effect on reducing border flows,” said Blas Nunez-Neto, Acting Assistant Secretary for Border and Immigration Policy at Security. interior.
Mr. Higgins said these types of statements undermined the administration’s claims that it was acting in good faith.
“Why should we expect DHS to legitimately comply with the court order in good faith when it is clear that DHS leadership opposes the MPP as a policy?” he said.
Mr. Lankford and Sen. Chuck Grassley, Republican of Iowa, said last week in a letter to Homeland Security Secretary Alejandro Mayorkas that the government was not even monitoring vulnerabilities cited by migrants in interviews.
The senators said this undermined the ministry’s claims that it was concerned about human rights abuses against MPP members.
“If DHS is truly concerned about the humanitarian impacts of the reimplemented MPP program, it seems unconscionable that DHS does not maintain records relating to the specific types of vulnerabilities exhibited by the individuals it screens under this program. These records would certainly be of interest to the courts that have mandated DHS to implement this ‘good faith’ program and to the congressional committees to which you report,” the senators wrote.
Biden administration officials offer a number of explanations for the low enrollment rate.
Nunez-Neto said the comparison to the Trump years is uncertain because it was before the COVID-19 pandemic and the emergency border order that allows the government to immediately evict illegal immigrants.
About half of those captured on any given day are subject to this immediate eviction.
That still leaves over 2,500 people a day who are not subject to the pandemic order.
Mr. Nunez-Neto suggested that the program will expand. He said it took the Trump administration “a few months” to fast-track the MPP and the Biden team is treating the restart as a clean slate.
The government is also trying to negotiate arrangements with Mexico.
“It’s a new program. We need time to get started,” he said. “We do this during a pandemic, and Mexico has imposed certain restrictions on how we can send people back, including when and what type of testing and quarantine must be available on the Mexican side for them to accept the people,” he said.
He said the program has expanded to a location in Laredo, Texas, which proves the administration is acting in good faith to enforce the judge’s order.
The stay-in-Mexico policy is one of several moves Biden’s team has attempted but met with resistance from the courts.
In another ruling this month, a judge said the Biden administration broke the law by exempting illegal immigrant children from the pandemic border closures, known as Title 42.
Judge Mark T. Pittman ruled that Homeland Security must treat unaccompanied minors who show up at the border like any other illegal immigrant, meaning many of them should be deported immediately under pandemic rules.
On Friday, just before the judge’s deadline for compliance, the administration issued a policy again removing unaccompanied children from the border closure.
“The CDC responds to the concerns of the court and has determined, after reviewing current public health conditions and recent developments, that the deportation of unaccompanied non-citizen children is not warranted to protect public health,” said the agency in a press release explaining this decision.
On both the MPP and Title 42, the Biden administration is under extreme pressure from its political base to end the programs altogether.
Immigrant rights advocates say some asylum seekers with real cases are being denied the chance to seek protection in the United States