Several thousand migrants forced to wait in Mexico under a Trump-era program gradually will be allowed to enter the United States to pursue their asylum claims in coming weeks and months, the US Department of Homeland Security (DHS) said on Monday.
The move comes after the US Supreme Court ruled in favor of Democratic President Joe Biden in his administration’s bid to end the Migrant Protection Protocols (MPP) program, which pushed non-Mexican migrants back to Mexico to await resolution of their US cases, which sometimes took months or years.
The Biden administration will no longer enroll migrants in MPP and those currently waiting in Mexico will be removed from the program and allowed to enter the United States as they return for their next scheduled court dates, DHS said in a statement.
The program, informally known as “Remain in Mexico,” was launched in 2019 under former president Donald Trump, a Republican who sought to restrict both legal and illegal immigration. Under Trump, the initiative forced more than 65,000 non-Mexican asylum seekers back across the border, where they waited in squalid and often dangerous conditions.
Biden ended MPP shortly after taking office in January 2021 as part of his efforts to reverse the hardline policies of his Republican predecessor. But the termination was blocked by a federal judge in August 2021, forcing Biden to restart the program and eventually sending the legal fight to the Supreme Court.
In a statement following the Supreme Court ruling, the DHS said it was “committed to ending the court-ordered implementation of MPP in a quick, and orderly, manner. Individuals are no longer being newly enrolled into MPP, and individuals currently in MPP in Mexico will be disenrolled when they return for their next scheduled court date. Individuals disenrolled from MPP will continue their removal proceedings in the United States.”
“As [Homeland] Secretary [Alejandro] Mayorkas has said, MPP has endemic flaws, imposes unjustifiable human costs, and pulls resources and personnel away from other priority efforts to secure our border,” it added.
The Biden administration was separately stopped in court from ending another Trump-era order known as Title 42 that allows border authorities to expel migrants without giving them a chance to claim asylum in order to limit the spread of Covid-19.
Immigration has become a key political issue in the United States. Texas Governor Greg Abbott, a Republican, has been busing thousands of migrants to Washington and to New York in a bid to pressure the White House.
Meanwhile, the Republican Party is taking an increasingly hardline approach to immigration: at last week’s Conservative Political Action Conference in Dallas, Texas, some politicians even called for Mayorkas to be impeached.
Leading the criticism is Trump, who claimed migrants were “invading” the United States. “We must stop the invasion at our southern border,” he said in his speech at the conference. “Our country is being invaded, just like a military force was pouring in [...] We will be paying a price for this for many years to come in terms of terrorism and crime.”