Border enforcement officers reportedly are turning away more migrants attempting to enter the US after the Biden administration reinstated the Trump-era “Remain in Mexico” policy for asylum-seekers.
Fox News, citing a Border Patrol source in Texas, reported that officers are now sending all families who approach the border back to Mexico unless a family group includes a child under the age of one or a pregnant woman.
The Department of Homeland Security (DHS) brought back the policy, which required asylum claimants to wait in Mexico until their case could be heard in a US immigration court, after the Supreme Court left in place a federal judge’s order that the program be reinstated last month.
White House press secretary Jen Psaki told reporters on Aug. 25 that the administration was “compelled to — by law — to now proceed with means by which we abide by the ruling.”
President Biden had suspended the program, formally known as the Migrant Protection Protocols (MPP) shortly after taking office in January and Homeland Security Secretary Alejandro Mayorkas formally ended it on June 1. Biden’s initial order was challenged by the Republican attorney generals of Texas and Missouri, who argued the administration had violated federal law by failing to properly explain why the program was being halted.
In his ruling, US District Judge Matthew Kacsmaryk ordered the White House to make a “good faith” effort to restart the program and enforce it until it had been lawfully rescinded and officials had enough space to hold all detained illegal immigrants.
In his order winding up the MPP, Mayorkas had said that keeping it in place was not “consistent with this Administration’s vision and values and would be a poor use of the Department’s resources.” Psaki told reporters in August that the program was “inefficient”, “not implemented in a moral way” and had “led to a backlog in the system.”
However, the New York Times reported over the weekend that some White House officials welcomed the high court’s decision, believing it gave Biden political cover to bring back the program without angering progressive Democrats and immigration activists.
One idea, Politico reported Monday, would be to allow a smaller number of immigrants seeking asylum to wait in Mexico with better living conditions and ready access to lawyers as their cases are being processed — a policy nicknamed “Remain in Mexico lite”.
Opponents of the policy had claimed it presented near-insurmountable obstacles to successful asylum claims by forcing applicants to wait out violent conditions in Mexico, where they had limited access to lawyers and difficulty making it to court. The Biden administration had argued in court that the president had “clear authority to determine immigration policy” and that reinstating the program would lead to a “diplomatic and humanitarian crisis.”
The Trump administration largely stopped using MPP at the start of the COVID-19 pandemic, when it began turning back virtually everyone attempting to cross the Southwest border under the so-called “Title 42” health protocol — which initially exempted unaccompanied children and some families.
More than 1.1 million attempts to cross the US-Mexico border have been intercepted by US Customs and Border Protection (CBP) in the first seven months of this year. In July, the agency reported 212,672 apprehensions, the highest in a single month since 2000.
Of those migrants, CBP said 93,781 (44 percent) were expelled under Title 42, a 16 percent drop from a high of 111,465 Title 42 expulsions in May — a month when approximately 40,000 fewer apprehensions were reported.