This week the The Supreme Court heard argument in Biden v. Texas, a case involving the controversial “Remain in Mexico” policy. The judges are expected to render a decision this summer.
Here’s what you need to know about the policy and the debate surrounding it:
What is the “Remain in Mexico” policy?
The “Remain in Mexico” policy is officially known as the Migrant Protection Protocols. First implemented by the Trump administration in January 2019, the protocols allow the United States government to return non-Mexican asylum seekers (who entered the United States through the southern border) to Mexico in waiting for the immigration procedure.
Although the Biden administration suspended the policy in January 2021 – and it was later terminated in June 2021 – it was reinstated in early December due to a court ruling. US authorities again began sending non-Mexican asylum seekers to Mexico.
Migrant protection protocols only apply to those in the Western Hemisphere. There are many other exemptions — it cannot be applied to unaccompanied minors, for example.
The Biden administration has made adjustments to the policy, clarifying who is exempt, said Danilo Zak, policy and advocacy manager for the National Forum on Immigration. They exempted pregnant women, the elderly and those who might be harmed because of their gender identity.
What has been the impact of the “Remain in Mexico” policy on migration?
Experts say the policy was intended to deter foreign nationals from immigrating to the United States. “It was instituted by the Trump administration as one of a series (of measures) to deter individuals and families from seeking asylum in the United States,” said Giulia McPherson, director of advocacy and operations of the Jesuit Refugee Service.
Normally — that is, before the implementation of the “Remain in Mexico” policy and Title 42, the public health code that allows Customs and Border Protection officers to turn back migrants at the border – people seeking asylum usually presented themselves at a port of entry, experts say. If during a credible fear interview with a US official it was determined that the person was at risk of being tortured or persecuted in their home country, they would be allowed to stay in the US while their case progressed through the system.
But the “Remain in Mexico” policy means that, even after passing their credible fear interview, asylum seekers are sent to Mexico – “often to live in the same dangerous circumstances they were trying to escape”, a said McPherson.
Because violence and insecurity are “systemic throughout northern Mexico, especially in border towns close to entry points”, she said, many asylum seekers have ended up abandoning their homes. requests and ended up migrating to other parts of Mexico.
Did he prevent undocumented migrants from coming to the United States?
Experts point out that although policies such as “Stay in Mexico” and Title 42 are designed as deterrents, they have not actually led to a reduction in the number of border crossings. In fact, despite continued implementation of Title 42 and “Stay in Mexico” under the Biden administration, the number of border crossings is approaching record highs.
In March, for example, when the policies were in place, border officials stopped 210,000 migrants, the highest number in more than two decades, Reuters reported. 2019, the first year of implementing migrant protection protocols, also saw a migratory surgeaccording to the Pew Research Center.
“What we’ve seen is that the numbers haven’t gone down,” McPherson said. “People are fleeing desperate situations. We must address the problems of the asylum and immigration system in the United States, as well as the root causes of migration.
Additionally, since the “Remain in Mexico” policy encourages migrants to avoid border patrol agents, experts say more are trying to cross into the United States undetected. This means they take longer and more circuitous journeys, often over dangerous terrain, putting their lives at risk.
“The majority want to follow the legal process and make their claim legally. All we ask is that the U.S. government respect that right and that wish,” said McPherson, who added that under Title 42, many migrants are turned away without the opportunity to be interviewed. credible fear.
Why do immigration advocates think it’s important to lift the “Remain in Mexico” policy?
They cite a number of reasons: On the one hand, the United States is a signatory to the 1967 protocol relating to the status of refugees. Some legal experts believe that “Stay in Mexico” violates this convention.
Human rights advocates also say the “Stay in Mexico” policy is a violation of the United States’ own laws. More than that, they think it’s inhumane.
Not only are many asylum seekers who have been returned to Mexico waiting in squalid conditions where they lack basic necessities, but they are vulnerable to violence, including sexual assault, kidnapping and murder, Zak said. .
Among those who sought treatment at Médecins Sans Frontières clinics in Nuevo Laredo between January and October 2019, for example, 80% said they had suffered violence and 75% said they had been kidnapped.
Experts also say the wait in Mexico while his case progresses through the US system makes it difficult, if not impossible, to pursue his asylum claim. These people have “extremely limited access to a lawyer” in the United States, Zak said, and often are not ordered to appear in court or unable to attend. The result is that many have been subject to “absentia removal orders,” he said, adding, “These are concerns that persist regardless of which administration is administering the policy.”
Why do some politicians and others want the “Stay in Mexico” policy to remain in place?
Some policymakers say it is essential for the safety and security of Americans and reduces the number of migrants entering the United States illegally. When a 2021 court ruling reinstated the policy, Texas Governor Greg Abbott applauded the movecalling it “a major victory for our state, our nation and for the safety and security of our communities”.
Describing the policy as “thoughtful” last month in comments he presented to a House subcommittee on border securityTimothy Roemer, director of the Arizona Department of Homeland Security, said, “When applied correctly, the MPP helps protect the lives of every community in Arizona and those across the country.
He claimed the policy helps law enforcement officials better protect the country from drugs and “transnational criminal organizations that continue to take advantage of vulnerable populations.”
Despite a record number of border crossings that have taken place under both “Stay in Mexico” and Title 42, Roemer assured the House subcommittee that these policies help keep “the situation at the border under control”.
What impact might the end of the “stay in Mexico” policy have on the situation on the southern border?
Experts say they don’t expect the number of people trying to reach the United States to change if the policy is lifted. Migrants fleeing their home countries are “not affected by the policies they might find at the US border,” Zak said. “They’re preoccupied with… trying to find safety.”
Advocates also say the United States could begin assessing asylum seekers’ asylum claims. “We have precedent for this – when the Biden administration ended the policy last June, they started treating people,” McPherson said, adding that it was “done in an orderly fashion” because his organization helped accompany migrants across the border.
“We know that the administration, in conjunction with nongovernmental organizations, would develop a process by which it could adjudicate cases while (refugee seekers) safely await their court appearance in the United States” , she said.