asylum seekers to again wait in mexico
Reinstatement of the “Remain in Mexico” policy hinges on the approval of the Mexican government, which has raised concerns that U.S. officials are working to address, the Justice Department said in a court filing late Thursday. Mexico wants to see most cases concluded within six months and to ensure that asylum seekers have timely and accurate information about hearing dates and times and better access to legal counsel.
Mexico also wants exemptions for “particularly vulnerable populations” and better coordination on locations and times of day that asylum seekers are returned to Mexico.
About 70,000 asylum seekers have been subject to the policy, known officially as Migrant Protection Protocols, which former President Trump introduced in January 2019 and Biden suspended on his first day in office. A federal judge sided with the states of Texas and Missouri and ordered the Biden administration in August to reinstate the policy “in good faith.” The court filing says it should be in effect around mid-November.
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.
Homeland Security Secretary Alejandro N. 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. Many 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 Biden administration will rebuild tent courts in the Texas border cities of Laredo and Brownsville at a monthly cost of $24.6 million, according to the court filing, and is working to ensure capacity in a system 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 2020 on grounds of preventing spread of the coronavirus. The Biden administration has 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 Mexican Foreign Relations Department said.
Broad outlines of the reinstated “Remain in Mexico” 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.”