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Border & Immigration

U.S. Formally Ends Trump-Era 'Remain In Mexico' Program

A worker from the International Organization for Migration carries a child across the Paso del Norte international bridge between Ciudad Juárez, Mexico and El Paso, Texas. The young boy and his family were previously enrolled in the "Remain in Mexico" program, but were allowed to enter the U.S. to continue their asylum case after the Biden Administration suspended the policy.
A worker from the International Organization for Migration carries a child across the Paso del Norte international bridge between Ciudad Juárez, Mexico and El Paso, Texas. The young boy and his family were previously enrolled in the "Remain in Mexico" program, but were allowed to enter the U.S. to continue their asylum case after the Biden Administration suspended the policy.

The Biden administration on Tuesday formally ended the Trump-era “Remain in Mexico” program, which required asylum seekers to wait in Mexico while an immigration judge decided their case.

President Joe Biden suspended the controversial policy, also known as the Migrant Protection Protocols (MPP), on his first day in office. His administration stopped enrolling new asylum seekers in the program, and has since allowed thousands of migrants who still have active court cases to enter the U.S. and continue their proceedings.

Biden also asked federal agencies to review “Remain in Mexico” and decide whether to officially terminate the policy.

In a seven-page memo officially ending the program, Homeland Security Secretary Alejandro Mayorkas wrote that MPP “had mixed effectiveness in achieving several of its central goals” and that the program “experienced significant challenges.”

“I have determined that MPP does not adequately or sustainably enhance border management in such a way as to justify the program’s extensive operational burdens and other shortfalls. Over the course of the program, border encounters increased during certain periods and decreased during others,” the memo said.

Mayorkas also questioned whether the conditions asylum seekers faced in Mexico — including the “lack of stable access to housing, income, and safety” — drove some to abandon their protection claims.

He further noted that, while one of the Trump administration’s goals was to reduce the backlog of asylum cases in U.S. immigration court, backlogs actually increased during the two years MPP was in effect.

Mayorkas said that administration is considering ways to implement “long-needed reforms” to the U.S. asylum system “that are designed to shorten the amount of time it takes for migrants, including those seeking asylum, to have their cases adjudicated, while still ensuring adequate procedural safeguards and increasing access to counsel.”

Around 70,000 asylum seekers were enrolled in MPP between January 2019 and Biden’s first day in office. According to the memo, about 11,200 people who were originally placed in the program have been allowed into the U.S. to continue pursuing their cases.

The administration has not yet said whether the tens of thousands of asylum seekers whose cases were dismissed or denied under MPP will have another chance to seek protection.

Mallory Falk is a corps member with Report For America, a national service program that places journalists into local newsrooms. Got a tip? Email Mallory at Mfalk@kera.org. You can follow Mallory on Twitter @MalloryFalk.

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