The Biden administration has said it plans to reinstate a Trump-era border policy next month to keep asylum seekers in Mexico waiting for US immigration court hearings, as ordered. of a judge.
That depends on approval from the Mexican government, which has raised concerns that U.S. officials are working to address, the Justice Department said in a filing late Thursday. Mexico wants cases to be generally completed within six months and ensures that asylum seekers have timely and accurate information about hearing dates and times and better access to a lawyer.
Mexico also wants exemptions for “particularly vulnerable populations” and better coordination of where and what times of day asylum seekers are returned to Mexico.
U.S. District Judge Matthew Kacsmaryk in Amarillo, Texas, a Trump appointee, left open the possibility that the administration could try again to end the policy, and officials say they will soon release a plan that , he hopes, will survive legal scrutiny.
US Homeland Security Alejandro Mayorkas ended the policy in June after an internal review, saying it had achieved “mixed effectiveness”.
Illegal border crossings fell sharply after Mexico, facing Trump’s threat of higher tariffs, acquiesced in 2019 to the policy’s rapid expansion. Asylum seekers faced major violence while waiting in Mexico and faced a host of legal hurdles, such as accessing lawyers and case information.
The administration will rebuild tent courts in the Texas border towns of Laredo and Brownsville at a monthly operating cost of $24.6 million, according to the court filing, and is working to ensure the capacity of a system pending 1.4 million cases.
Mexico’s foreign relations department said Thursday it was concerned asylum seekers would receive fair treatment in court under the policy, have access to a lawyer and be safe.
Mexico said it had also raised questions about another US policy to deport migrants without the possibility of seeking asylum. Trump invoked these powers, known as the Title 42 authority, in March 2020 to prevent the spread of the coronavirus. The Biden administration has been a strong defender of special powers.
“Mexico will continue discussions with the US executive, with the aim of achieving a safe, orderly and regulated regional migration policy,” the foreign relations department said.
U.S. officials say the renewed “Stay in Mexico” policy will be applied to people who are ineligible for Title 42 authority. The policy was last widely used on people from Spanish-speaking countries, but the officials say eligible nationalities have not been determined.
The outline of the reinstated policy comes as the Biden administration has yet to develop the “humane” asylum system the president promised during his campaign after quickly dismantling many Trump policies. Illegal border crossings soared under Biden’s watch, with a record number of unaccompanied children and, in September, the arrival of around 15,000 migrants, mostly Haitians, at a camp in Del Rio, in Texas.
Homeland Security said in a statement that it “remains committed to building a safe, orderly, and humane immigration system that upholds our laws and values.”
Associated Press writer Mark Stevenson in Mexico City contributed.