The Biden administration has formally ended a Trump-era immigration policy that forced asylum seekers to wait in Mexico for hearings in US immigration court.
The seven-page memo from Homeland Security Secretary Alejandro Meyercas marked the end of the “migrant protection protocol” that returned nearly 70,000 asylum seekers to Mexico from January 2019 until two years after President Joe Biden was in office. It was stopped on the first day.
The announcement appeared to be a foregone conclusion after Biden had promised to end the policy, informally known as “Stay in Mexico”, but he has made it permanent. Left a window open by ordering a review before closing.
Meyerkas said retaining or modifying the policy “would not be in line with the vision and values of this administration and would be a poor use of department resources.” He said the cost would far outweigh any benefits.
The policy coincided with a sharp decline in asylum seekers at the border, but critics noted that people were hampered by violent conditions in Mexico, lack of access to lawyers, and the difficulty of bringing it to court. Mayercas acknowledged those concerns by failing to appear in court and noting the high rate of denied claims for lack of housing, income and security in Mexico.
Since February 19, about 11,200 people with active cases have been allowed to return to the United States to await a verdict, a process that could take years in a backlogged court system. The administration is yet to say whether the thousands more whose cases were either dismissed or dismissed will get another chance.
The top Republican on the House Homeland Security Committee lambasted the move as “a very serious mistake” that would hinder efforts to curb the number of migrants entering the US. Remarks from Rep. John Cutko, R.N.Y., underscored the GOP’s view that the situation at the border remains a political obligation for Democrats.
“The common thread in President Biden’s continued actions is to open up border security policies while putting the security of our homeland on the back burner,” Katko said in a written statement.
The secretary pointed to a new docket in the immigration court announced on Friday that aims to decide asylum cases at the border within 300 days. He promised “additional anticipated regulatory and policy changes”, without elaborating.