Another attempt to end the “Stay in Mexico” immigration policy
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WASHINGTON – The Biden administration is making another attempt to end a Trump-era immigration program that a court has ordered reinstate, offering a more detailed description of the “benefits and costs” of forcing some applicants to asylum to be awaited in Mexico while their cases are pending.
“I have concluded that there are inherent problems with the program that no amount of resources can sufficiently solve,” wrote Alejandro N. Mayorkas, the secretary for homeland security, in the new rationale for the end of the program, published Friday.
Republicans have said the program, known as the Migrant Protection Protocols, or MPP, curbs illegal migration, while human rights activists have called it inhuman.
While the administration still follows the court order to restart the program, it hopes the new memo addresses the issues raised by a Texas federal judge, who in August ruled that the seven-page rationale provided by Mr. Mayorkas in June to end the program was “arbitrary and capricious”. The new rationale, which includes a summary and a detailed explanation, is over 40 pages long.
Condemning the program while having to put in place plans to restart it illustrates how difficult it has been for the Biden administration to keep one of President Biden’s biggest campaign promises: to reverse some of the restrictive immigration policies put in place by former President Donald J. Trump.
The MPP program, also known as Remain in Mexico, “had endemic flaws, imposed unjustifiable human costs, diverted resources and personnel from other priority efforts, and failed to address the root causes of irregular migration,” said Mr. Mayorkas in a press release. statement Friday, adding that it “does not provide the fair process and humanitarian protections that individuals deserve under the law.”
The Biden administration continued to use a public health rule put in place by Mr. Trump at the start of the pandemic that gives border officials the power to turn back migrants, even those seeking asylum, which also has been decried by immigration advocates as inhuman. It was used about 60 percent of the time, and many were allowed to enter the country to make asylum claims.
After Mr Biden terminated the program, Missouri and Texas took legal action to have it reinstated – in part, they said, because the termination forced them to provide government services to immigrants who were now allowed to wait here for their asylum claims to go through the slow system. Judge Matthew J. Kacsmaryk of the United States District Court for the North District of Texas sided with the states.
The Supreme Court refused to block its order and the administration tried to revive it, despite its opposition. (The program was also challenged in court during the Trump administration.)
The program forces asylum-seeking migrants who have left a third country and passed through Mexico to wait there for the United States to make a decision on their case. It was put in place in early 2019 and was one of many measures taken under the Trump administration to limit who can seek asylum in the United States.
Human rights defenders argued that the program forced people to stay in unsanitary tent camps where they faced harsh weather conditions as well as the danger of sexual assault, kidnapping and torture. New Jersey Democrat Senator Bob Menendez on Friday called the policy “one of the most destructive vestiges of Donald Trump’s anti-immigrant legacy.”
In a court case filed Thursday, Missouri and Texas argued that the sharp increase in the number of Haitian migrants who arrived in Del Rio last month could have been avoided had the program been in place. “The border crisis continues, in large part because the defendants do not comply in good faith” with the court order to restart the program, according to Thursday’s file. Without the program in place, the complainants said, thousands of migrants “have reason to believe they can enter the United States freely.”
In the new termination memo, Mr Mayorkas acknowledged that the data suggests there were fewer illegal border crossings while the program was in place, a point Republicans hammered home as the country recorded the most. large number of illegal crossings in the last 12 months at least 60 years.
“But he did so by imposing substantial and unjustifiable human costs on people who were exposed to harm while waiting in Mexico,” he wrote, adding that “correlation does not equate to causation and , even here the evidence is inconclusive “.
Since August, the administration has taken steps to restart the program, including issuing new contracts to pitch tents on the Texas border, which was in place before the Biden administration ended the program. The administration said it would be ready to restart the program in mid-November.
This prompted groups that provide legal services to asylum seekers waiting in Mexico to tell the Biden administration that they would not participate if the program was reinstated.
“We refuse to be complicit in a program that facilitates the rape, torture, death and family separation of those seeking protection by committing to provide legal services,” the groups wrote in a letter to Beginning of the month.
But nothing can happen unless Mexico agrees to allow people to wait there while U.S. immigration officials review asylum claims. Homeland security officials said the government was in talks with Mexico and trying to address some of the humanitarian concerns that the country said needed to be addressed before it was restored. A request from the Mexican government is for the United States to act faster to adjudicate asylum cases, said a homeland security official, speaking on condition of anonymity because of the agency’s rules.
According to data from Syracuse University’s Transactional Records Access Clearinghouse, more than 25,000 asylum claims are pending from people affected by the program. Of the closed cases, only 1.6% of applicants obtained asylum.
Ursela Ojeda, senior policy adviser for the Women’s Refugee Commission on Migrant Rights and Justice program, said the new memo was a welcome step, but she had hoped Mr Mayorkas would have released it more early.
“It’s really worrying that we are 10 months away in this administration, and there are still several policies of the Trump administration – not just MPP – that are still being implemented at the border,” she said. , in particular the maintenance of the public health rule, which the administration fights in the courts to remain in place. “Instead, we see a doubling of deterrence policies and policies that are really not compatible with the right to seek asylum in this country.”
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