On December 6, 2021, the Biden administration relaunched the “Remain in Mexico” policy. According to two Customs and Border Protection agents, the program began in El Paso, TX.
Formally known as the Migrant Protection Protocols (MPP), the Trump-era program allows U.S. officials to send South American migrants to Mexico to wait for their US immigration court hearings. More than 60,000 asylum seekers were forced to live in run-down makeshift camps along the U.S.-Mexico border and often vulnerable to dangerous conditions, such as gang violence.
As soon as he took office, President Joe Biden pledged to end the program and even started admitting migrants who were subject to it. However, a federal judge in Texas ordered the administration in August to reinstate the MPP with Mexican authorities, faulting the White House for ending the policy without considering all the consequences in doing so.
The lawsuit against the Biden administration was filed by Republican officials in Texas and Missouri. The White House appealed the ruling, but the Supreme Court upheld the decision, forcing U.S. officials to work out an agreement with Mexico.
Not only has the Biden administration reinstated the program, but it has also expanded it. Now, migrants from “all Western Hemisphere nations,” rather than only for migrants from Spanish-speaking countries.
The administration plans to complete all cases in the program within a six-month period of a migrant’s return to Mexico. Yet, the same time frame to clear cases was promised by the previous president, but failed mostly because the issue wasn’t a top priority and the backlogs in the immigration courts.
According to the Washington Post, the Justice Department has assigned 22 immigration judges to oversee the MPP restart and speed up the process of complying with the six-month timeline. Biden officials have also added safeguards to provide exemptions to people with disabilities and the elderly.
Additionally, border agents will interview migrations to figure out if they have a “reasonable possibility” of being in danger in Mexico before returning them under the policy. If a “fear of harm” exists, then the agents will refer migrants to an asylum officer for further screening.
U.S. and Mexico officials promised to improve shelter conditions and provide MPP enrollees with safe transport to and from US ports of entry, health care, work permits, and even the COVID-19 vaccine. Migrants will also be able to speak with an attorney, although only a few of them are able to pay for legal services or have access to free legal counsel.
Biden officials said that the program will expand to Eagle Pass, Laredo, and Brownsville in Texas; San Diego and Calexico in California; and Nogales, AZ. Court hearings will be held in El Paso, Brownsville, Laredo, and San Diego.
In the meantime, the Biden administration will also continue to implement the Title 42 public health law, which gives U.S. officials the authority to “expel” most border crossers. Unfortunately, migrants who have been sent home on “expulsion flights” under Title 42 are not eligible for U.S. humanitarian protections.
Department of Homeland Security Secretary Alejandro Mayorkas has stated that the administration plans to eventually end the program.
If you or a loved one is interested in applying for asylum in Illinois, Texas, or Arizona, call Gambacorta Law at (847) 443-9303 or complete our online contact form today to schedule an initial consultation. Our legal team can guide you through the application process!