The Biden administration said on Friday it would be ready to start returning asylum seekers to Mexico next month as part of a Trump-era policy it has already denounced – as long as the Mexican government accepts returns.
Accede to a request from the Republican Attorneys General of Texas and Missouri, a federal judge in Augustthe Biden administration to reinstate the so-called “Stay in Mexico” border program, which required 70,000 non-Mexican migrants to wait outside the United States for their asylum hearings.
Although it is appealing the ruling and considering terminating the policy a second time, the Biden administration is currently legally bound to comply with the August court order in “good faith.” If Mexico agrees to support the revival of the policy, the United States could start enrolling migrants in the program “in mid-November,” a senior official in the Biden administration told reporters on Thursday.
“It depends on Mexico’s independent decision whether or not to accept those the United States seeks to include in the MPP,” the official said, using the official name of the policy: Migrant Protection Protocols.
To show it is complying with the court order, the administration said it was hiring contractors to rebuild tents in Laredo and Bronsville, Texas, where asylum seekers returned to Mexico would attend hearings. on their requests for refuge in the United States.
Administration officials said they were working on making several changes to the “Stay in Mexico” program to ensure the policy better reflects the Biden administration’s commitment to treat migrants fairly and address concerns raised by the Mexican government.
The proposed changes, officials said, include ensuring migrants have access to lawyers and legal information; a “general commitment” to close court cases within six months of a migrant’s return to Mexico; and expanding the categories of asylum seekers who may be considered too vulnerable to be returned to Mexican border towns plagued by rampant crime and violence.
“Reimplementation is not something the administration wanted to do. We double the affirmation of our decision to end the MPP. But in the meantime, we are subject to this obligation of the court. returned to Mexico, being treated humanely is of course one of the highest priorities, ”said an administration official.
A Department of Homeland Security note to terminate the policy is expected to be “finalized shortly,” but an administration official stressed that it would only take effect once a higher court suspends the decision. August which made the reestablishment of the policy compulsory.
Relaunching “Stay in Mexico”, even if it is court-mandated, would represent a crushing setback for immigrant advocates and a remarkable policy change for the Biden administration, which has vowed to overturn the border practices of the Trump era, which she called inhumane and ineffective.
During the Trump administration, migrants returned by the United States found themselves living in squalid tent camps, including parts of Mexico, the State Department warns Americans not to surrender due to the violence of cartels and kidnappings. Many said they were extorted, kidnapped, assaulted and raped while awaiting their hearings in the United States.
During the presidential campaign, President Biden said Remain-in-Mexico forced asylum seekers to live in “misery”. Last month, DHS Secretary Alejandro Mayorkasthe policy fueled “inhumane conditions” for migrants.
The Trump administration, on the other hand, argued that Remain-in-Mexico deters migrants fleeing economic hardship from illegally crossing the southern border and filing asylum claims that ultimately would not be approved by US judges. immigration.
The Trump-era program, which was slashed during the coronavirus pandemic, was suspended on Mr. Biden’s first day in office. In June, Mayorkas issued a memo formally ending the policy, calling it ineffective and costly.
In his August order making the reestablishment of policy mandatory, US Judge Matthew Kacsmaryk said the note from DHS Secretary Alejandro Mayorkas failed to take into account the “benefits” of the rule, including its deterrent effect on migrants who do not qualify for American refuge.
While freezing the “Stay in Mexico” policy, the Biden administration upheld another Trump-era border rule, known as Title 42, which allows U.S. authorities to quickly deport migrants to Mexico or their country of origin without allowing them to request humanitarian protection.
This policy, which U.S. officials say is necessary to prevent coronavirus outbreaks inside Border Patrol facilities, is currently being challenged in federal court by the American Civil Liberties Union, which maintains that the deportations are illegal.