Sign up for The Brief, our daily newsletter that keeps readers informed about Texas’ most essential news.
The U.S. Supreme Court ruled on Thursday that the Biden administration has the right to end a Trump-era immigration policy that forces asylum seekers to wait in Mexico while their cases are processed by US immigration courts.
In a 5-4 decision, the judges ruled against Texas and Missouri, which had argued the Biden administration violated the law by canceling the program, and sent the case back to the district court to determine whether the termination of the policy violated administrative laws.
But the judges determined that the government’s cancellation of migrant protection protocolscalled MPP and also called “stay in Mexico,” did not violate a section of immigration law that Texas and Missouri had used to argue that the Biden administration had illegally terminated the program.
Chief Justice John Roberts and Justice Brett Kavanaugh joined the three most liberal judges in majority.
It’s unclear whether the Biden administration will try to end the program immediately or wait for the lower court to rule.
The Department of Homeland Security said in a statement late Thursday that it welcomes the Supreme Court’s ruling that it “has discretion to terminate the program, and we will continue our efforts to terminate the program as soon as possible.” as the law will permit”. In the statement, DHS also said it would continue to punish immigrants who enter the country illegally and enforce Title 42, the emergency health order that immigration officials used to quickly deport the majority of people trying to enter the country.
In the statement, Alejandro Mayorkas, the DHS Secretary, said “after careful review, the previous administration’s Migrant Protection Protocols (MPPs) have endemic flaws, impose unjustifiable human costs, and divert resources and staff of other priority efforts to secure our border.”
César Cuauhtémoc García Hernández, an immigration attorney and Ohio State University law professor, said the Biden administration can immediately stop implementing the program, but the Supreme Court ruling leaves the door open. open to Texas and other states to continue lobbying to force the administration to continue the program.
Texas Attorney General Ken Paxton, who has sued the administration multiple times over President Joe Biden’s immigration policies, said the decision “aggravates the border crisis”, but the battle is not over. “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 lawsuits I am litigating in court,” Paxton said.
Immigrant rights advocates celebrated the court’s decision on Thursday.
“This is a bittersweet victory after so many lives have been lost to atrocious immigration deterrent policies both federally and in the state of Texas,” said Fernando García, executive director of the Border Network for Human Rights based in El Paso. The decision was long overdue, and it is shocking that the Supreme Court waited until today to determine the danger migrants face since Trump adopted this murderous policy.
The program was launched by the Trump administration in January 2019. After Biden took office, Mayorkas suspended the program in January 2021, then officially canceled it in June 2021.
This led Texas and Missouri to sue the Biden administration in April 2021, arguing that the cancellation of the MPP violated administrative and immigration laws and that without the program, human trafficking would increase and force states to spend resources on migrants – such as providing driving licenses, educating migrant children and providing hospital care.
The case went to the Supreme Court after a federal district judge in Texas ruled last year that the Biden administration violated immigration law by failing to detain all immigrants attempting to enter. in the country. In August 2021, U.S. District Judge Matthew J. Kacsmaryk ordered the Biden administration to reinstate the policy.
The administration argued that it had discretion to terminate the program and that it was not an effective way to deal with migrant asylum seekers.
About 70,000 asylum seekers were sent to Mexico through the MPP, leading to refugee camps on the Mexican side of the border, where many migrants became targets for kidnappers and drug cartels. Since the program resumed in December, immigration officers have registered slightly more 5,100 immigrants as of May 31, according to Transactional Records Access Clearinghouse, or TRAC, at Syracuse University.
Because of Title 42, fewer people have the ability to apply for asylum and be registered to “stay in Mexico.” Thursday’s decision does not affect Title 42.
According to an analysis by TRAC, between 2019 and 2021, less than 2% of completed MPP cases resulted in a person being granted asylum. So far, under the Biden administration, 27 people have been granted asylum under the MPP. By comparing, 50% of migrant cases already in the United States with an asylum application have been successful.
Human Rights First, a New York-based organization, recorded 1,544 cases of murders, rapes and kidnappings of migrants who were forced to stay in Mexico between the launch of the MPP in January 2019 and January 2021, when the Biden administration initially suspended the policy. A woman enrolled in the program told the Texas Tribune that she was raped by a Ciudad Juárez police officer while waiting in Mexico.
On average, it takes five years for a migrant to obtain a decision on their asylum application. Under a new plan that took effect this year, the Biden administration’s goal is to conclude asylum applications within six months for some asylum seekers.
Paxton filed a separate lawsuit against the Biden administration on April 28 to try to stop the new asylum plan. Kacsmaryk, who is based in Amarillo, is also overseeing that case, which remains pending.
Join us September 22-24 in person in downtown Austin for The Texas Tribune Festival and participate in over 100 conversational events featuring big names you know and others you should know from the worlds of politics, public policy, media and tech, all curated by the journalists award winners from the Texas Tribune. To buy tickets.