Administration officials say they oppose the program, but are following a court order
President Joe Biden’s administration is formally relaunching a program that will force some asylum seekers to wait in Mexico for their claims to be heard.
The Migrant Protection Protocols (MPP), often known as “Remain in Mexico,” were started during the Trump era, and proved effective in driving down illegal immigration.
The United States will restart the program on or around Dec. 6 after reaching an agreement with counterparts in Mexico, the U.S. Department of Homeland Security (DHS) announced Thursday.
Biden halted the program hours after being sworn in after describing it as “dangerous” and “inhumane.” Homeland Security Secretary Alejandro Mayorkas, a Biden nominee, formally scrapped it in June, claiming that “any benefits the program may have offered are now far outweighed by the challenges, risks, and costs that it presents.”
But he and other officials failed to adhere to federal law on ending policies, a judge ruled in August.
Mayorkas ignored how his own agency found that the program became “an indispensable tool in addressing the ongoing crisis at the southern border and restoring integrity to the immigration system,” U.S. District Judge Matthew Kacsmaryk, a Trump nominee, found. He ordered the government to act in good faith to relaunch the program.
Texas and Missouri sued the Biden administration over the MPP’s termination, leading to the decision.
U.S. officials have said in periodic updates after the ruling that they were preparing to do so but were held back by Mexico’s refusal to form a fresh partnership.
Marcelo Ebrard, Mexico’s secretary of foreign affairs, said in a statement that the United States agreed to address humanitarian concerns conveyed by Mexican officials, and will provide more resources for sheltering immigrants waiting for U.S. judges to hear their asylum claims.
Therefore, Mexico has agreed to resume its role in MPP “for humanitarian reasons and on a temporary basis,” he said.
DHS workers were told in a memorandum (pdf) that the U.S. government “has made a number of changes” to the program to satisfy Mexico. The government will work with Mexican partners to make sure asylum seekers sent south of the border will have shelter and secure transportation to and from court hearings, it said.
Any illegal immigrant from a country in the Western Hemisphere other than Mexico are subject to MPP, with exceptions including immigrant children who arrive without a responsible adult and people deemed “at increased risk of harm in Mexico due to their sexual orientation or gender identity.”
The program may not remain in place for long.
Mayorkas in October said he was ending it as soon as the courts overturned the preliminary injunction entered by Kacsmaryk, even though that block was upheld by both an appeals court and the Supreme Court.
A preliminary injunction is meant to be temporary, and could be lifted by Kacsmaryk or a higher court. The case involving the U.S. government and the two states that sued it is ongoing.
The resumption was condemned by the National Immigrant Justice Center.
“Every child, adult, or family subjected to this reinstatement will suffer because this administration failed to uphold their lawful right to seek asylum on U.S. soil,” Lisa Coop, associate director of legal services for the center, said in a statement.
The view wasn’t universal, though.
“This is fantastic news as we continue to struggle in securing our southern border,” said Rep. Bob Latta (R-Ohio).