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Biden administration to halt controversial ‘Remain in Mexico’ program

Aug. 9, 2022 Updated Tue., Aug. 9, 2022 at 8:46 p.m.

A Border Patrol agent walks between a gap along the border wall between the US and Mexico in Yuma, Arizona on June 1.  (Patrick T. Fallon/AFP/Getty Images North America/TNS)
A Border Patrol agent walks between a gap along the border wall between the US and Mexico in Yuma, Arizona on June 1. (Patrick T. Fallon/AFP/Getty Images North America/TNS)
By Hamed Aleaziz Los Angeles Times

The Biden administration will halt the use of a Trump-era policy that forced migrants seeking asylum to remain in Mexico, after a Supreme Court ruling said the government could unwind the program, according to two U.S. officials.

The administration’s action follows a federal judge’s ruling to vacate his previous decision to restart the policy.

“Remain in Mexico,” formally known as the Migration Protection Protocols Policy, or MPP, forced back more than 60,000 asylum-seekers during the Trump administration, as part of an effort to deter migration at the southern border. Many immigrants faced rape, kidnapping and murder while they languished in Mexico, according to advocacy groups.

Officials with the Department of Homeland Security confirmed the move Monday evening.

“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,” said Marsha Espinosa, a spokesperson for DHS. “Individuals disenrolled from MPP will continue their removal proceedings in the United States.”

In early 2021, the Biden administration began to undo MPP by allowing thousands of people caught up in the program in Mexico to come to the U.S. In June of that year, DHS Secretary Alejandro N. Mayorkas issued a memo officially ending the policy.

But in August 2021, U.S. District Judge Matthew Kacsmaryk ordered the government to restart the policy; his order went into effect shortly thereafter. Since then, thousands of migrants have been thrust into the controversial program.

Then, in June, the U.S. Supreme Court said the administration could move forward with its efforts to undo the program. Chief Justice John G. Roberts Jr. wrote the majority opinion, finding that the law did not require the government to return asylum-seekers to Mexico.

On Monday, as a result of the Supreme Court decision, Kacsmaryk vacated his ruling.

Mayorkas wrote in an October 2021 memo terminating the program for a second time that while he understood that the policy likely had led to a downturn in arrivals at the border, it should not continue. He said the policy had imposed “substantial and unjustifiable human costs on the individuals who were exposed to harm while waiting in Mexico. The Biden-Harris administration, by contrast, is pursuing a series of policies that disincentivize irregular migration while incentivizing safe, orderly and humane pathways.”

The use of the program waned toward the end of the Trump administration as officials turned toward the pandemic-era rule Title 42, which allows for immediate turn-backs at the border.

The Biden administration continued to use Title 42 before attempting to wind it down in the spring, an effort that was blocked in court.

“DHS is committed to ending the court-ordered implementation of MPP in a quick, and orderly, manner,” Espinosa said in the statement. “As Secretary Mayorkas has said, MPP has endemic flaws, imposes unjustifiable human costs and pulls resources and personnel away from other priority efforts to secure our border.”

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