The Biden administration announced on Friday it would seek to end the stay-in-Mexico policy for the second time, with an official saying any benefits from the measure outweigh the potential harm it could have on some migrants, reported the Associated Press.
Designed to slow illegal migration, the policy forces asylum seekers to wait in Mexico while their case is pending. Then-President Donald Trump launched the policy, officially known as the Migrant Protection Protocols, in January 2019. About 70,000 asylum seekers have been referred to the program since it took effect.
President Joe Biden suspended the policy on his first day in office and Homeland Security Secretary Alejandro Mayorkas formally ended it in June after an internal review showed it had achieved ‘mixed effectiveness’ .
In a Friday statement, Mayorkas said Staying in Mexico likely contributed to a decline in illegal border crossings in 2019, though he added it likely resulted in “substantial and unjustifiable human costs for migrants who were exposed damages during their stay in Mexico”.
In August, a federal court judge ordered the Biden administration to reinstate the Migrant Protection Protocol program “in good faith until it has been lawfully canceled pursuant to the Administrative Procedure Act and until the federal government has sufficient detention capacity.”
For more Associated Press reporting, see below.
The Biden administration said earlier this month that it plans to reinstate the policy around mid-November, subject to Mexican government approval. Mexico wants cases to be generally concluded within six months, quick and accurate access to case information, and better access to a lawyer for asylum seekers.
Some of the administration’s most prominent pro-immigration allies say Friday’s notice was late and Mayorkas lacked a sense of urgency. US officials deny the slow march and point to the research that produced the 39-page memo.
Many U.S.-based legal aid groups that have represented pending asylum seekers in Mexico say they will no longer take such cases, raising questions about how the U.S. can satisfy the Mexico’s insistence on better access to a lawyer. Administration officials say they believe there are enough other lawyers who will represent asylum seekers returned to Mexico.
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.
Mayorkas said on Friday his second review assumed the policy had led to a significant drop in border crossings, calling it the strongest argument for maintaining it. Still, he said the benefits do not outweigh the costs in terms of dealings with Mexico, resources and risks associated with exposure to violence while waiting in Mexican border towns.
“[There] are problems inherent in the program that no amount of resources can sufficiently solve. “He wrote. “Others cannot be resolved without undermining key administration priorities and more durable solutions. “
A three-judge panel of the United States Court of Appeals for the 5th Circuit is scheduled to hear arguments in a lawsuit filed by the states of Texas and Missouri on Tuesday. The administration is expected to ask that the case be referred to U.S. District Judge Matthew Kacsmaryk, a Trump appointee in Amarillo, Texas, who in August ordered the policy reinstated.
The administration is rebuilding tent courts in the Texas border towns of Laredo and Brownsville to handle Mexican residency cases.
The return of politics and other recent enforcement actions have tested the administration’s historically strong relationship with pro-immigration groups. In protest, several advocates abruptly ended a Saturday morning call this month with White House officials to discuss Remaining in Mexico.
Immigration advocates and advocates generally hailed the administration’s renewed efforts.
Sen. Bob Menendez, a Democrat from New Jersey, said he hoped it would address legal objections and end a policy he said is “deliberately designed to punish and deter refugees from legally seeking safety in United States”.