EXPLAINER: What’s next for the Stay in Mexico policy?


PHOENIX (AP) — The Supreme Court’s decision to order the reinstatement of the “Remain in Mexico” immigration policy is drawing criticism from advocacy groups and praise from former President Donald Trump. It also prompts the Biden administration to promise to continue pushing back against a lower court’s decision to reactivate the policy, which forced people to wait in Mexico while seeking asylum in the United States.

The decision of the high court, who spoke Tuesday night, said the Biden administration likely violated federal law by trying to end the Trump-era program known as the Migrant Protection Protocols. The decision raised many questions, ranging from whether a legal challenge would outweigh the practical effects of reinstatement if upheld.



The Department of Homeland Security said it was taking steps to comply with the High Court ruling while the Biden administration appeals.

The administration could try to end the program again by asking the department to provide a fuller explanation for its decision to end the migrant protection protocols.

White House spokeswoman Jen Psaki said Wednesday that the administration has appealed a district court ruling that triggered the Supreme Court order and will continue to “vigorously challenge” it. .

Trump, meanwhile, welcomed the court order and said the Biden administration must now restore “one of my most successful and important programs to secure the border.”

During Trump’s presidency, policy required tens of thousands of migrants seeking asylum in the United States to return to Mexico. It was intended to discourage asylum seekers, but critics said it deprived people of the legal right to seek protection in the United States and forced them to wait in dangerous Mexican border towns.

U.S. immigration experts note that no matter what happens in the long run, the Biden administration has wide discretion over the degree to which the policy will be reapplied if appeals fail.

“He could reimplement it on a very small scale for families who meet some very specific nationality criteria, or he could do something broader,” said Jessica Bolter, associate policy analyst at the Migration Policy Institute in Washington.



Mexico’s foreign relations department declined to say late Wednesday whether the government would allow the United States to reinstate the policy of sending asylum seekers back across the border to await asylum hearings. .

Roberto Velasco, Mexico’s director of North American affairs, said the court’s decision was not binding on Mexico. He stressed that “Mexico’s immigration policy is designed and executed in a sovereign manner”.

“The Mexican government will enter into technical discussions with the U.S. government to assess how to handle safe, orderly, and regulated immigration at the border,” Velasco said.

Mexico is not legally obliged to take in returning migrants who are not Mexican citizens, and most asylum seekers are not.

Under the Trump administration, the Mexican government said it was cooperating with the program for humanitarian reasons. Although the migrants were granted humanitarian visas to remain in Mexico until their U.S. hearings, they often had to wait in dangerous areas controlled by cartels, leaving them vulnerable to kidnapping, assault, rape or even murder. Others were bused to areas of southern Mexico or “invited” to return to their home countries.

Mexico could technically block the program by refusing to accept migrants invited to stay in Mexico under the Migrant Protection Protocols, or MPPs. But analysts like Tonatiuh Guillén, former head of Mexico’s migration agency, consider that unlikely given the country’s history of cooperation with the United States.

Guillén said Mexican officials would likely follow even if the country does not have enough resources to deal with an influx of asylum seekers at the border and nonprofit shelters south of the border are overwhelmed.

However, more than 70 Mexican, American and international NGOs sent a letter asking President Andrés Manuel López Obrador not to accept the decision of the American court.

“I don’t think Mexico or the Biden administration wants to reimplement the MPP at full capacity right now,” Bolter said. “If it is reapplied at a low level, it will have serious consequences for the families or other migrants who are subject to it. But overall, I think it’s unlikely to drastically change the political landscape on the border.



Immigration experts note that protocols to protect migrants had already been significantly reduced during the pandemic, as authorities began using public health protocols to quickly deport migrants.

The Trump administration placed about 6,000 migrants in the program from April 2020 to January 2021 — a fraction of the more than 71,000 migrants placed in the overall program, Bolter said. He launched the program in January 2019.

“Obviously it wasn’t operating at the level it was operating at before, but there were definitely still people placed there,” Bolter said. She added that the program was widely used for migrants that Mexico refused to take back under pandemic-era health protocols known as Title 42.

Victoria Neilson, senior counsel for CLINIC’s Vulnerable Populations Advocacy Program, noted that since the pandemic, far fewer migrants have been placed in the MPP program, with many being removed from the border under health protocols initiated under the administration and prosecuted by President Joe Biden.



The State Department is in talks with the Mexican government as the administration reviews Trump-era protocols to determine how they can be implemented while Title 42 is in effect, a security official said interior who spoke on condition of anonymity to discuss the internal deliberations.

The Centers for Disease Control and Prevention renewed Title 42 public health powers earlier this month. The administration stressed that Title 42 is not an immigration authority, but a public health authority, and its continued use is dictated by the CDC’s analysis of the public health situation.

As Title 42 deportations continue, the United States has for now suspended processing in the United States of people who were returned to Mexico under migrant protection protocols under the Trump administration.

In recent weeks, Central American migrants deported under Title 42 have been transported by the United States to southern Mexico, raising concerns among United Nations agencies about vulnerable migrants they say are in need. of humanitarian protection.

The US government has intermittently flown Mexicans deep into Mexico for years to discourage repeat attempts, but flights that began this month from Brownsville, Texas, to the Mexican state capitals of Villahermosa and Tapachula, near the Guatemalan border, appear to be the first time Central Americans have been airlifted deep into Mexico.


Taxine reported from Orange County, California. Maria Verza in Mexico City and Ben Fox and Mark Sherman in Washington contributed to this report.


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