Just 11 months ago, US President Joe Biden suspended the Trump administration’s Migrant Protection Protocols (MPPs) – also known as “Remain in Mexico” – a policy that required refugees to wait at the Mexico for hearings in US Immigration Court while complying with a court order. and accept the modifications and additions requested by Mexico.
Last week, the controversial policy was reinstated in full by the Biden administration.
Following a pact with Mexico, the United States will begin sending asylum seekers from other Latin American countries to Mexico, where they will be forced to wait for their cases to be reviewed.
The Biden administration was forced to revive the MPP after a district court order in August cited a technical flaw in the administration’s attempt to cancel the program. The administration says it is now complying with the court ruling while filing an appeal to end the program.
What does the “Remain in Mexico” policy entail?
According to the Associated Press, the Department of Homeland Security (DHS) officially restarted the MPP in El Paso, Texas on December 6, with up to 50 migrants being returned to Ciudad Juarez daily.
About 71,000 people were enrolled in the MPP under the Trump administration, when the program was initially adopted in January 2019, and were eventually forced to wait in Mexico for U.S. hearings due to politics.
Thousands of people found themselves stranded or forced to reside in overcrowded shelters or makeshift encampments in Mexican border towns such as Tijuana, Ciudad Juárez and Matamoros, where they were often targets of rape, robbery, extortion and kidnappings by organized criminal groups.
Migration scholars fear the move to resurrect “Trump-era politics” could once again put thousands of individuals in “enormous suffering” and put them at risk.
Is Biden’s version of MPP different?
While the MPP under the Biden administration incorporates certain humanitarian precautions, such as access to the COVID-19 vaccine, the basic concept of the program – forcing asylum seekers to wait in Mexico – remains intact.
Biden’s version of the proposal includes migrants from countries in the Western Hemisphere, while Trump’s version was mostly limited to Spanish-speaking countries in the hemisphere. Mexicans are still safe from the law.
The development is particularly notable for the Haitians, who in September established a huge camp near the Texas border town of Del Rio. Brazilians, who have generally escaped Trump’s wrath, could be particularly hard hit.
Responding to concerns in Mexico that cases would languish in a court system already overburdened with 1.5 million cases, the United States would work to resolve cases within 180 days.
Rather than relying on migrants to voice their own concerns, US authorities will interview them if they fear deportation to Mexico. Migrants who show signs of fear will be assessed and given 24 hours to find a lawyer or agent.
Migrants will also be able to consult lawyers before each hearing, according to US officials. The Department of State is working with Mexico to identify areas where attorneys in the United States can be contacted by video and telephone.
Many US-based legal aid organizations that have represented asylum seekers awaiting deportation to Mexico have announced that they will no longer take such cases. Other lawyers will certainly come forward, according to US and Mexican officials, but lawyers are skeptical.
What was Mexico’s response?
In his Aug. 13 ruling, Trump-appointed U.S. District Judge Matthew Kacsmaryk in Amarillo, Texas, said reinstatement of the policy was contingent on Mexico’s approval. After the Biden administration promised changes and additions, Mexico’s foreign secretary announced on Thursday that he would allow repatriation “for humanitarian reasons.”
The COVID-19 vaccination must be administered to all migrants subject to the policy. Adults will receive the Johnson & Johnson vaccine, which is a one-shot immunization. Children who qualify under US rules will receive the Pfizer vaccine, followed by additional shots when they travel to the United States for their first hearings.
During the talks, Mexican officials expressed concern over the return of migrants to the state of Tamaulipas, which is located across the border from South Texas and is the busiest corridor for crossings. illegal border crossings. They requested financial assistance from the United States for more accommodation space, but only received vague promises.
Apart from El Paso, the strategy will eventually be extended to six other cities: San Diego and Calexico in California; Nogales, Arizona; and Brownsville, Eagle Pass and Laredo on the Texas border.
Arrangements are made to offer transportation to and from the Mexican border. For their own safety, migrants returning to Tamaulipas from Brownsville, Eagle Pass and Laredo may be resettled further afield in Mexico.
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