Next month, the Biden Administration will revive former President Donald Trump’s policy requiring migrants at the Southern border to remain in Mexico until their U.S. immigration court date. It became known as the “Remain in Mexico” policy during Trump’s years in office, and was one of the most controversial elements of his immigration plan. Now, President Joe Biden’s revival of the plan has many immigration rights activists angry and concerned.
Biden suspended the Remain in Mexico policy early in his term, but a federal judge in Texas has ruled that the termination of that policy violated the Administrative Procedure Act. The Supreme Court sided with that judge, landing a blow to Biden’s immigration plan and forcing the revival of the policy.
Trump’s implementation of the policy was a major break from U.S. immigration precedent which sent an estimated 68,000 immigrants back across the Southern border to wait months or years for their court date in squalid conditions which have been rife with kidnapping, sexual abuse and extortion. U.S. immigration budget cuts coupled with unprecedented levels of displacement around the world have led to a bottleneck at the border, where there simply aren’t enough resources to process migrants in a timely manner.
While the re-implementation of the “Remain in Mexico” policy means that migrants can’t wait for their court date in the U.S., it’s not at all clear that they’ll be able to wait in Mexico either, since the Supreme Court can’t force sovereign nations to do what they say. “Significantly, Mexico is a sovereign nation that must make an independent decision to accept the return of individuals without status in Mexico as part of any reimplementation of MPP. Discussions with the Government of Mexico concerning when and how MPP will be reimplemented are ongoing,” the Department of Homeland Security said in a statement.
The decision has been met with harsh criticism from advocates.
“We are so disappointed, @POTUS,” said RAICES, the largest immigration legal services nonprofit in Texas. “The Biden Administration is backing down and refusing to use their power to end #MPP aka “Remain in Mexico.” This cruel and inhuman policy has deadly consequences for asylum seekers and it perpetuates Trump’s anti-immigrant, xenophobic legacy.”