The Department of Homeland Security (DHS) is again attempting to terminate the previous administration’s Remain in Mexico policy, on Friday reissuing a new memorandum with a more detailed explanation into the Biden administration’s reasoning. Notably, the new memo acknowledges violent attacks against asylum-seekers forced to wait in Mexico, which the initial memo from June failed to do.
Sec. Alejandro Mayorkas said the policy, officially known as Migrant Protection Protocols (MPP), “had endemic flaws” and “imposed unjustifiable human costs,” noting the policy “not only undercuts the administration’s ability to implement critically needed and foundational changes to the immigration system, it fails to provide the fair process and humanitarian protections that individuals deserve under the law.”
Human Rights First, which documented abuses against asylum-seekers forced by the previous administration to wait in Mexico for their U.S. immigration court dates, said it commended the administration for reissuing the memo. “’Remain in Mexico’ and other policies that flout asylum laws and treaties are inhumane and unjust,” Human Rights First Senior Director for Refugee Protection Eleanor Acer said. “Every day they are in place, they deliver people seeking protection to places where they are targets of brutal attacks and kidnappings perpetrated by deadly cartels and corrupt Mexican officers.”
“Both in the course of litigation and otherwise, litigants described, and some courts credited, extreme violence and substantial hardships faced by those returned to Mexico to await their immigration court proceedings, as well as substantial danger traveling to and from ports of entry to those hearings,” the memo said. The policy was in fact a boon to violent cartels, who targeted asylum-seekers near ports of entry. “Litigants described being exposed to violent crime, such as rape and kidnapping, as well as difficulty obtaining needed support and services in Mexico, including adequate food and shelter.”
Human Right First said its statement that it urged “immediate further action to ensure this illegal program is not restarted and to end the use of Title 42, another horrific Trump-era policy.” But even as the administration has reissued a more detailed explanation, “Friday’s memo won’t change anything right away,” Vox reported. “According to DHS, ‘the termination of MPP will not take effect until the current injunction is lifted.’” Earlier this past summer, a judge appointed by the previous administration ruled the Biden administration had to revive the policy. Both an appeals court and the Supreme Court’s right-wing justices let that decision continue.
“The administration remains under a court order requiring it to reimplement MPP in good faith, which it will abide by even as it continues to vigorously contest the ruling,” DHS said. It notes that it has continued talks with Mexico, which must also sign off on the policy. “MPP cannot be reimplemented, however, unless and until the Government of Mexico makes an independent decision to accept returns under the program.” Vox previously reported that the courts have said that “the administration will not violate the court order against it so long as it tries in ‘good faith’ to reinstate the Trump-era policy.”
Advocacy groups had urged the Biden administration to reissue the memo, with dozens saying they refused to be “complicit in a program that facilitates the rape, torture, death, and family separations of people seeking protection by committing to provide legal services.” A number of border-based asylum organizations and advocates also left a virtual meeting with the Biden administration over the policy. They noted “[i]t is not possible to make the inhumane, humane, unfair, fair, or to breathe life into a deadly program.” That program’s danger is acknowledged in the memo itself, citing “substantial and unjustifiable human costs on migrants who were exposed to harm while waiting in Mexico.”
"’Remain in Mexico’ has and will always be an immoral policy. It's very promising to see the Biden administration make another attempt to end this misguided and inhumane practice,” tweeted the Friends Committee on National Legislation. “This is not just about what’s on paper. It’s about people,” tweeted civil rights litigator Karen Tumlin. “The Biden admin must turn the memos into action by using every legal tool at its disposal to scrub Remain in Mexico from our policy books.”