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Biden administration ending 'Remain in Mexico' policy on asylum-seekers

Biden administration ending 'Remain in Mexico' policy on asylum-seekers

Trump's 'Migrant Protection Protocols' criticized by immigration advocates; federal judge allows program to end

  • In Nogales, Sonora hundreds of families, including children have waited in Mexico for months, even nearly a year, to seek asylum in the U.S.
    Paul Ingram/TucsonSentinel.comIn Nogales, Sonora hundreds of families, including children have waited in Mexico for months, even nearly a year, to seek asylum in the U.S.

Homeland Security officials said Monday they would wind down a Trump-era program, known as "Remain in Mexico," which requires asylum seekers to stay south of the border while their applications for protection wind through the U.S. immigration system.

The decision follows a Supreme Court ruling in June that dismissed a lawsuit requiring the Biden administration to maintain Remain in Mexico despite what officials called its "endemic flaws."

Created in December 2018 as one of a series of policies designed to keep people from coming to the U.S.-Mexico border to seek asylum under U.S. law, Remain in Mexico — more formally known by the euphemistic title "Migrant Protection Protocols" — was criticized by immigration advocates who argued the program subjects families and individuals to "squalid conditions" where they are under threat of rape, kidnapping, extortion and even murder.

As the American Immigration Council argued, the program also failed its legal requirements.

"Migrants often didn't "receive notice of their hearings, had little to no access to a lawyer in the United States, and were forced to travel through dangerous parts of Mexico in order to show up to the border to be transferred to courts for their hearings," the AIC said.

Meanwhile, state officials, including those in Arizona, have claimed "Remain in Mexico" helps separate people who are "taking advantage" of the asylum system from those truly in need of legal protection.

On Monday, U.S. District Judge Matthew J. Kacsmaryk allowed Homeland Security to begin unraveling Remain in Mexico.

Homeland Security Secretary Alejandro Mayorkas said he welcomed the judge's decision to lift the injunction.

"DHS is committed to ending the court-ordered implementation of MPP in a quick, and orderly, manner. Individuals are no longer being newly enrolled into MPP, and individuals currently in MPP in Mexico will be disenrolled when they return for their next scheduled court date.  Individuals disenrolled from MPP will continue their removal proceedings in the United States," he said in a statement.

Mayorkas has previously said MPP has endemic flaws, imposes unjustifiable human costs, and pulls resources and personnel away from other priority efforts to secure our border."

DHS officials said the agency will "provide additional information in the coming days."

"MPP enrollees should follow the directions on their court documents and tear sheets to appear for their scheduled court date as required," he said.

He added while MPP is winding down, DHS "continues to enforce our nation’s immigration and public health laws, including the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention’s Title 42 public health order as required by court order."

"Individuals encountered at the Southwest Border who cannot establish a legal basis to remain in the United States will be removed or expelled," Mayorkas said.

"It was time to end this cruel program that violated the right to asylum for thousands of people," said Pedro De Velasco, director of education and advocacy at the Kino Border Initiative in Nogales, Sonora. "During its tenure, human rights groups documented numerous abuses suffered by people forced to wait under the MPP, including threats, assaults, kidnappings, forced recruitment, and rape. Let us hope that neither this nor any other similar program will again attack the dignity of people on the move and their search for protection."

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