Migrants from Haiti cross the Rio Grande at the Ciudad Acuna border in Mexico in September as other migrants wait under the international bridge for asylum claims to be processed by US authorities. File photo by Miguel Sierra/EPA-EFE
WASHINGTON, March 2 (UPI) — Republicans and Democrats sparred over immigration policy on Wednesday during a House Homeland Security Subcommittee hearing on the Trump administration’s “Stay in Mexico” policy that a court ordered President Joe Biden to sue.
And senior Department of Homeland Security officials called the policy an “unjustifiable human cost to migrants.”
Under this policy, officially called the Migrant Protection Protocols, migrants who seek asylum in the United States or after passing through the United States are sent back across the southern border to Mexico to wait their appearance in US immigration court.
Trump-era politics “dismantled the asylum process and forced migrants to wait in dangerous conditions in Mexico until their asylum hearing,” said Rep. Nanette Barragán, D-California, president of the Homeland Security Subcommittee on Border Security, Facilitation and Operations. .
Under Trump, nearly 70,000 migrants were sent to Mexico, Barragán said.
Biden tried to end the policy in early 2021, but a Texas federal court forced the administration to restart it in August. In April, the Supreme Court will hear the president’s appeal of the ruling.
Barragán led the subcommittee to monitor how the administration handled the reapplication of the MPP, and “whether they met the high standards required to work with migrants making asylum claims,” Barragán said, adding: “I argue that more work needs to be completed.”
She said people sent to Mexico to await an immigration court decision face unclear guidelines and inaccessible legal representation.
Blas Nuñez-Neto, acting assistant secretary for border and immigration policy at the Department of Homeland Security, said the agency is trying to make legal services more accessible and asks if migrants have security concerns. to the idea of returning to Mexico.
“I want to be exceptionally clear, however, that this administration recognizes that these changes, while significant, are not sufficient to address the concerns we have identified with the program, and we will continue to fight the decision of the court,” Nuñez-Neto said.
But Republicans defended the policy. Louisiana Rep. Clay Higgins, the highest-ranking Republican on the subcommittee, called on Biden to “stop this madness” and keep the policy going.
“One year into President Biden’s term, we’ve seen a total disintegration of law and order on the southern border,” Higgins said. “Cartels run the border. Democratic policies have turned the US border into a porous highway for crime, drugs, and human trafficking in our communities and neighborhoods.”
The recent wave of migrants is putting a strain on Border Patrol agents and local law enforcement, said Rep. John Katko, RN.Y.
Rep. Andrew Clyde, R-Ga., Argued that DHS efforts to make it easier to reenforce the policy — like having WiFi-enabled shelters in Mexico and providing safe travel options to get to court appearances in immigration – are too lenient on people crossing the border. illegally and may encourage the practice.
Biden’s suspension of border wall construction, executive branch actions to halt the deportation and reinstatement of some Obama-era policies are also at fault, Higgins said.
“We discuss migrant concerns as if there is no longer a difference in America between legal immigration and illegal crossing of our sovereign borders,” he said.
Republicans also pushed back on Nuñez-Neto and other DHS officials for criticizing the policy.
“How is that relevant? You would agree with me, wouldn’t you, that if you have an obligation under the law, you have to perform the obligation under the law, whether that do you like it or not?” Representative Dan Bishop, RN.C., asked Nuñez-Neto.
But Nuñez-Neto argued that “MPP is not aligned with the values of this administration” and said DHS is “committed to fighting the court order all the way to the Supreme Court, if necessary.”