WASHINGTON (AP) — The Supreme Court said On Thursday, the Biden administration may abandon a Trump-era immigration policy to make asylum seekers in Mexico wait for hearings in US immigration courts, a victory for a White House that has yet to do in the face of growing numbers of people seeking refuge at America’s southern border.
The ruling will have little immediate impact because the policy has rarely been enforced under President Joe Biden, who reinstated it under a court order in December. It was his predecessor, Donald Trump, who launched the Stay in Mexico Policy and fully embraced it.
Two conservative justices have joined their three liberal colleagues in siding with the White House.
Under Trump, the program has recruited around 70,000 people after it launched in 2019. Biden suspended the policy, officially known as the Migrant protection protocols on his first day in office in January 2021. But lower courts the command reinstated in response to a court case of Texas and Missouri led by the Republicans.
The dynamics at the border have changed dramatically since “Stay in Mexico” was a centerpiece of Trump’s border policies.
Another Trump-era policy that remains in effect and was not part of Thursday’s decision allows the government to quickly deport migrants without the possibility of seeking asylum, rejecting US law and an international treaty on the grounds of contain the spread of COVID-19. There have been more than 2 million evictions since the pandemic-era rule, known as the Title 42 authority, was introduced in March 2020.
In May, a Louisiana federal judge prevented the Biden administration to stop Title 42, in a case that could eventually reach the Supreme Court.
Thursday’s court decision came the same day judges struck the administration a blow in a major environmental case on the main national law against air pollution. The move could complicate the administration’s plans to tackle climate change.
The crux of the legal battle in the immigration case was whether US immigration authorities, with far less detention capacity than necessary, should send people to Mexico or whether those authorities discretion under federal law to release asylum seekers in the United States. pending their hearings.
After Biden suspended the program, Homeland Security Secretary Alejandro Mayorkas ended it in June 2021. In October, the department produced additional justifications for the disappearance of the policy, but it was of no use in court.
Chief Justice John Roberts wrote that an appeals court “erred in holding that the ‘Federal Immigration and Nationality Act’ required the government to continue to implement the MPP.” Joining the majority opinion was fellow Trump-appointed conservative Brett Kavanaugh, along with liberal justices Stephen Breyer, Sonia Sotomayor and Elena Kagan.
Kavanaugh also wrote separately and noted that generally, when detention capacity is insufficient, the release of asylum seekers in the United States and their removal to Mexico “are legally permitted options under the laws of immigration”.
The Department of Homeland Security said it welcomes the decision and will “continue our efforts to terminate the program as soon as the law permits.” He added in a statement that he continues to enforce Title 42 and “our immigration laws at the border and administer the consequences for those who enter illegally.”
Stephen Yale-Loehr, a law professor at Cornell University, an immigration expert, said the Biden administration needed to take no further action to end the policy, but that Texas and the Missouri could challenge whether the administration followed proper procedure to terminate the program. .
In a dissent for himself and fellow conservatives Clarence Thomas and Neil Gorsuch, Judge Samuel Alito wrote that the practice of releasing “untold numbers of aliens” into the United States “violates the clear terms of the law, but the court is looking the other way. Judge Amy Coney Barrett said she agreed with the majority’s analysis on the merits of the case, but would have sent the case back to a lower court for reconsideration.
Texas Attorney General Ken Paxton said in a statement that the decision was “unfortunate”. He argued that this would aggravate “the border crisis. But this is not the end. I will continue to move forward and focus on securing the border and the safety of our communities in the dozen or so other immigration cases I am litigating in court. Gov. Greg Abbott, a Republican, said the decision “would only embolden the Biden administration’s open-border policies.”
Since December, the administration has registered only 7,259 migrants in “Rest in Mexico”. US authorities arrested migrants 1.2 million times at the Mexican border from December to May, illustrating the policy’s limited impact under Biden.
About 6 out of 10 people participating in the program are Nicaraguan. The administration said it would apply the policy to nationalities that are less likely to be subject to the broader Title 42 policy. Strained diplomatic relations with Nicaragua make it extremely difficult for the United States to deport people to their homeland under Title 42.
Immigrant advocates have acknowledged that a relatively small number of asylum seekers arriving at the southwestern border are affected by the MPP program addressed in the court ruling. Still, advocates and Democrats were among those applauding the decision, as were those waiting in Mexico.
Oscar Rene Cruz, a taxi driver from Nicaragua who is in a Salvation Army shelter in Tijuana, Mexico, said after the decision: “We are all very happy, waiting to see what will happen next. with us, we know the program ended, but we weren’t told what they were going to do with us.
Cruz added: “I wish it was over soon. No one wants to stay here” in Mexico.
Representative Pramila Jayapal, a Democrat from Washington, said in a statement that those “fleeing violence and persecution to seek asylum – as they are entitled to under the law – should not be forced to stay in places deemed unsafe and unsafe as they wait for their day in court.
Jacob Lichtenbaum, an attorney for immigrant rights group CASA in Maryland, called the decision “a major victory for safety, compassion and the rule of law.”
But Rep. John Katko of New York, the senior Republican on the House Homeland Security Committee, said the program was a critical tool to help manage arrivals at the southwest border and that the current administration had no plan to solve the problem.
The case is Biden v. Texas, 21-954.
Spagat reported from San Diego. Associated Press writers Amy Taxin in Orange County, California, Jorge Lebrija in Tijuana, Mexico, and Alan Fram in Washington contributed to this report.
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