US plans to reinstate ‘Remain in Mexico’ policy next month
SAN DIEGO — According to a judge’s order, the Biden administration stated that it would reinstate a Trump-era policy making asylum-seekers wait in Mexico to be heard in U.S. immigration court.
It depends on the Mexican government’s approval, which has raised concerns U.S. officials are working towards addressing, according to a court filing late Thursday by the Justice Department. Mexico demands that cases be concluded within six months. It also wants to ensure that asylum seekers have accurate and timely information about hearing dates, times, and access to legal counsel. Mexico also seeks exemptions for “particularly fragile populations” and better coordination of times and locations at which asylum-seekers return to Mexico.
About 70,000 asylum-seekers have been subject to the “Remain in Mexico” policy, known officially as “Migrant Protection Protocols,” which President Donald Trump introduced in January 2019 and Biden suspended on his first day in office. A federal judge sided with the states of Texas and Missouri by ordering the Biden administration in August to reinstate the policy “in good faith.” The court filing says it should be in effect around mid-November.
U.S. District Judge Matthew Kacsmaryk in Amarillo, Texas, a Trump appointee, left open the possibility that the administration could try again to end the policy, and officials say they will release a plan soon that they hope will survive legal scrutiny.
U.S. Homeland Security Alejandro Mayorkas ended the policy in June after an internal review, saying it achieved “mixed effectiveness.”
Illegal border crossings fell sharply after Mexico, facing Trump’s threat of higher tariffs, acquiesced in 2019 to the policy’s rapid expansion. Asylum seekers were the victims of major violent while they waited in Mexico. They also faced a host of legal hurdles , like access to lawyers and case information.
The administration will rebuild tent courts in Texas border cities of Laredo and Brownsville at a monthly cost of $24.6 million to operate, according to the court filing, and is working to ensure there is capacity in a system that is backlogged with 1.4 million cases.
Mexico’s Foreign Relations Department stated Thursday that it is concerned about how asylum-seekers are treated in court under the policy. It also said that they have concerns about whether they have access to legal counsel, being safe and getting fair treatment.
Mexico stated that it has also raised concerns about another U.S. policy of exiling migrants without giving them the chance to apply for asylum. Trump invoked these powers (known as Title 42 authority) in March 2020 to prevent the spread of coronavirus. The special powers have been strongly supported by the Biden administration.
“Mexico intends to continue discussions with the U.S. executive, with the goal of achieving a safe, orderly, and regulated regional migration policy,” said the Foreign Relations Department .
U.S. Officials say that the “Remain in Mexico” policy will now be applicable to those who do not qualify for Title authority. Although the policy was first used mostly for people from Spanish-speaking nations, officials claim that it will now be applied to all eligible nationalities.
Broad outline of the reinstated policy comes as the Biden administration still has not developed the “humane” asylum system that he promised during his campaign. After quickly dismantling many Trump-related policies, Illegal border crossings have soared under Biden’s watch, with record numbers of unaccompanied children and, in September, the arrival of about 15,000 mostly Haitian migrants at a camp in Del Rio, Texas.
Homeland Security said in a statement that it “remains committed to building a safe, orderly, and humane immigration system that upholds our laws and values.”
Associated Press writer Mark Stevenson in Mexico City contributed.