President Biden will reinstate the controversial Trump-Era “Remain in Mexico” policy that requires asylum seekers at the U.S. southern border to wait in Mexico until their court hearing as soon as next week, a report revealed Wednesday.
First reported by Axios, due to a Supreme Court order Biden will force asylum-seekers to wait months in Mexico ahead of their immigration court hearings in the U.S. The Biden administration is reported to be tweaking the Remain in Mexico program to make it more humane and will offer migrants the option to receive the COVID-19 vaccine. Two government officials noted that the administration could not legally force migrants to receive the COVID shot compared to Americans with the president’s unconstitutional vaccine mandate.
However, it is not clear on the exact moment the migrant would be able to get inoculated — either before being turned back to Mexico or when they return to the U.S. for their court hearing.
A DHS official said the program would first be reinstated in El Paso and Brownsville, Texas, and San Diego, California.
“In compliance with the court order, we are working to reimplement MPP as promptly as possible,” Department of Homeland Security spokesperson Marsha Espinosa told Axios.
The policy, officially known as Migrant Protection Protocols (MPP), mandates that migrants seeking asylum return to Mexico as they await their hearings in the United States. The Trump administration established MPP in 2019 amid an increase of families from Central American crossing the southwest border.
Biden campaigned against the immigration policy and vowed to end the program if elected. On his very first day of office, Biden suspended the policy by signing an executive order and ordered a review of the program. A month later, the Department of Homeland Security (DHS) began allowing migrants in the program with pending court cases to enter and stay in the U.S. as they pursued their claims, a process that can take months or years. After review, the DHS formally terminated the program in June, claiming the policy “does not adequately or sustainably enhance border management.”
Texas and Missouri Attorney Generals sued the Biden administration in April before DHS terminated the program, citing the suspension worsened border conditions, which has seen the highest annual rate of illegal immigration apprehended since the 1980s. In August, a federal judge in Texas ordered the Biden administration to revive the program, saying Biden violated federal law in failing “to show a reasoned decision” for ending the program.
The Biden administration asked the Supreme Court to intervene a week later following the Fifth Circuit’s refusal to block the district court orders in reinstating the Trump-era program. But the high court in a brief order, upheld the decision that the Biden administration had not justified changing the policy. The higher court also faulted the administration for ending the program improperly and gave them a deadline of October 14 to comply in reinstating the Trump-era policy.
Last month, the Biden administration, just before the deadline, said it was prepared to reinstate the Trump-era policy in “good faith” by mid-November, but the contingent depends on the Mexican government’s agreement. In a background call with reporters announcing the restart of Remain in Mexico, a Biden official noted the Biden administration is in discussions with Mexican officials over the scope of the program, and potential safety measures for migrants were still under negotiation.
At the same time, the Biden administration sought to make a second attempt late last month to block the program with Mayorkas in a lengthy memo determined that MPP “may very well have led to a reduction of irregular migration,” but the humanitarian costs do not justify the program. However, Mayorkas can’t carry out his intentions to halt the program until the Texas federal judge, who issued the order, or an appellate court intervenes in lifting it.
The spokesperson noted that the Biden administration is ultimately at the mercy of Mexico’s cooperation.
“We cannot do so until we have the independent agreement from the Government of Mexico to accept those we seek to enroll in MPP. We will communicate to the court, and to the public, the timing of reimplementation when we are prepared to do so.”
In a court declaration filed last week, acting Homeland Security assistant secretary for border and immigration policy, Blas Nuñez-Neto said the U.S and Mexico were close to finalizing discussions on “Remain in Mexico.