(WASHINGTON) — The Department of Homeland Security said Monday it had ended a Trump-era policy requiring asylum seekers to wait in Mexico for U.S. immigration court hearings, a few hours after a judge lifted an order that had been in place since December for it to be reinstated.
The timing was uncertain since the Supreme Court ruled on June 30 that the Biden administration could end the “stay in Mexico” policy. Homeland Security officials had remained largely silent, saying they should wait for the court to certify the decision and for a Trump-appointed judge, Matthew Kacsmaryk in Amarillo, Texas, to then lift his injunction. The Supreme Court certified its decision last week.
The program will proceed in a “swift and orderly” manner, Homeland Security said in a statement. No one is registered anymore and those who appear in court will not be sent back to Mexico when they appear in the United States for their next hearings.
The policy “has endemic flaws, imposes unjustifiable human costs, and draws resources and personnel away from other priority efforts to secure our border,” the department said.
Many questions remain, including whether those whose claims have been denied or dismissed will get a second chance or whether those whose next court dates are months away will be allowed to return to the United States sooner. Homeland Security said it would provide additional information “in the coming days.”
About 70,000 migrants have been subject to the policy, officially known as the Migrant Protection Protocols, from the time President Donald Trump introduced it in January 2019 until President Joe Biden l suspended on her first day in office in January 2021, fulfilling a campaign promise. Many were allowed to return to the United States to pursue their businesses during the first months of Biden’s presidency.
Nearly 5,800 people were subjected to the policy from December to June, a modest number. Nicaraguans make up the largest number, with others from Cuba, Colombia and Venezuela.
Trump made the policy a centerpiece of border enforcement, which critics say was inhumane for exposing migrants to extreme violence in Mexico and making access to lawyers far more difficult.
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