By Zoe Strozewski
The Biden administration will reinstate the “Remain in Mexico” border policy enacted during the Trump administration that requires asylum-seekers to wait in Mexico for U.S. immigration court hearings, the Associated Press reported.
The reinstatement, expected to go into effect in mid-November, is in compliance with a federal judge’s August order to bring back the policy “in good faith.”
Former President Donald Trump initiated the policy, officially known as Migrant Protection Protocols, in January of 2019, but President Joe Biden suspended the practice on his first day in office, AP reported.
The Biden administration now has to rebuild tent courts in the Texas border cities of Laredo and Brownsville, which will cost $24.6 million every month, according to court documents.
The Mexican government must also approve the policy’s reinstatement, though it has voiced concerns that range from wanting asylum seekers’ cases to be completed within six months and for the migrant hopefuls to have up-to-date, accurate information on hearing dates and times, AP reported.
Mexico also wants exemptions for “particularly vulnerable populations, better legal counsel for asylum-seekers and better coordination in instances where people are returned to Mexico.
About 70,000 asylum-seekers have been subject to the Remain in Mexico policy.
U.S. District Judge Matthew Kacsmaryk in Amarillo, Texas, a Trump appointee, left open the possibility that the administration could try again to end the policy, and officials say they will release a plan soon that they hope will survive legal scrutiny.
U.S. Homeland Security Secretary Alejandro Mayorkas ended the policy in June after an internal review, saying it achieved “mixed effectiveness.”
Illegal border crossings fell sharply after Mexico, facing Trump’s threat of higher tariffs, acquiesced in 2019 to the policy’s rapid expansion. Asylum-seekers were victims of major violence while waiting in Mexico and faced a slew of legal obstacles, such as access to attorneys and case information.
The administration is working to ensure there is capacity in a system that is backlogged with 1.4 million cases.
Mexico’s Foreign Relations Department said Thursday that it has concerns about asylum-seekers getting fair treatment in court under the policy, having access to legal counsel and being safe.
Mexico said it also has raised questions about another U.S. policy to expel migrants without a chance to seek asylum. Trump invoked those powers, known as Title 42 authority, in March of 2020 on grounds of preventing spread of the coronavirus. The Biden administration has strongly defended the special powers.
“Mexico will continue discussion with the U.S. executive branch, with the aim of achieving a regional migration policy that is safe, orderly and regulated,” the Foreign Relations Department said.
U.S. officials said the renewed Remain in Mexico policy will be applied to people who don’t qualify for Title 42 authority. The policy was last used largely on people from Spanish-speaking countries but officials say eligible nationalities have not been determined.
Broad outlines of the reinstated policy come as the Biden administration has yet to develop the “humane” asylum system that the president promised during his campaign after quickly dismantling many Trump policies. Illegal border crossings have soared under Biden’s watch, with record numbers of unaccompanied children and, in September, the arrival of about 15,000 mostly Haitian migrants at a camp in Del Rio, Texas.
Homeland Security said in a statement that it “remains committed to building a safe, orderly, and humane immigration system that upholds our laws and values.”