Biden mulls ‘lite’ version of Trump’s ‘Remain in Mexico’ policy

The possibility of resuming the Migrant Protection Protocols, or MPP – one of former President Donald Trump’s most controversial immigration policies – even while attempting to soften it has angered proponents who expected Biden to provide a more welcoming system for migrants.

“One of his campaign promises was to end MPP. He did that. He should stand by it, ”said Marielena Hincapié, director of the National Immigration Law Center. “The answer isn’t just finding a softer, friendlier MPP 2.0. That completely contradicts his promise. “

Ever since the Supreme Court denied the government’s motion to keep the program inactive while efforts continued to end it in a lower court, immigration lawyers and activists have called on the Department of Homeland Security to issue a new memo to help try to end the program to the people.

In a statement last week, the DHS said it would challenge the verdict in court but made no mention of attempting to terminate the program a second time on different grounds.

“The DHS has appealed the district court order and will continue to vigorously challenge it,” it said. “In the further course of the appeal process, however, the DHS will follow the order in good faith.”

However, administrative officials have refused to share concrete plans for the future of the program, again leaving asylum seekers on the southern border pending.

Biden has already turned away most of the migrants encountered at the border, including single adults, because of pandemic restrictions. He makes exceptions for unaccompanied children and some families who may be affected by a new policy of waiting in Mexico.

“The most frustrating part of the last eight months has just been the ever changing policies and situations at the border, especially for the asylum seekers because on the other hand they think that … ‘if we wait, Biden will eventually open’ the ports of entry will open and let us in, ‘”said Robyn Barnard, senior advocacy counsel for refugee protection at Human Rights First.

DHS and the White House did not answer questions. But last week, White House press secretary Jen Psaki told reporters at her daily briefing that the government would do what the court ordered.

“Our position continues to be that this program has not been implemented morally,” she said. “That was inefficient. It used [Customs and Border Protection] Resources. This created a backlog in the system. And it’s basically a program that we rejected, but we also adhere to a court order. “

Biden promised to quickly lift Trump’s restrictive immigration policies, but was thwarted by a reluctant Congress, a cumbersome regulatory process, and numerous legal challenges. In some cases he has acted slowly.

MPP was an exception. To denounce the program in the election campaign as “dangerous”, “inhuman” and “against everything we stand for as an immigration country”, as the President acted quickly.

On his first day in office, the DHS announced that it would discontinue new registrations. In February it said it would gradually take in migrants with active cases who had to wait in Mexico.

But the states of Texas and Missouri sued for repeal. U.S. District Court Justice for the Northern District of Texas Matthew Kacsmaryk, a Trump-appointed official, said the Biden administration had failed to meet legal requirements to consider all relevant factors before the policy was suspended. On August 13, he ordered that efforts be made “in good faith” to resume the program within seven days and that monthly reports of these efforts be submitted beginning in October.

Trump said he implemented the policy in 2019 to try to discourage migrants from coming to the US and prevent them from failing to appear at immigration hearings after their release in the US by waiting in border towns that be ravaged by gangs, drugs and violence.

Erin Thorn Vela, an attorney for the Texas Civil Rights Project, which has filed lawsuits over the policy on behalf of disabled asylum seekers in Mexico, said the Biden government is misguided in believing the program is “humane” or “just “To be able to design.”

“The incredible damage that waiting in northern Mexico is doing to people, the insecurity, access to lawyers, the abysmal inhumane conditions in which people live,” she said. “In no case can that be delivered later. And I think they know that. “

Administration officials are considering restricting MPP to a small population group – although it is unclear who would be in the group – and offering better living conditions in Mexico and access to lawyers.

But proponents are campaigning for Mexico not to allow the US to resume the program. “As a sovereign state, Mexico has the right to reinstate [the Migrant Protection Protocols] Program or a future iteration of this policy aimed at outsourcing the US border to Mexican territory “, according to a letter sent by dozen of advocacy groups to President Andres Manuel Lopez Obrador.

Michael Tan, assistant director of the ACLU’s immigration law project that sued the Trump administration over the original program, said it was “worrying” that the administration is considering resuming a program that violates immigration law due to the lack of powers of Congress.

“From our point of view, this is completely unacceptable. It’s illegal, ”he said. “What the administration should be doing – and hopefully already is – working on a new memorandum that will respond to the concerns of the Texas district judge and end the program.”

Tan said the ACLU will see what the government does before deciding how to proceed with its lawsuit.

Josh Gerstein and Sabrina Rodríguez contributed to this report.

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