A federal judge late Friday revived a Trump-era immigration policy that ordered asylum-seekers to remain in Mexico as they waited for their U.S. court hearings.
President Joe Biden halted the controversial Migrant Protection Protocols border policy, known as “Remain in Mexico,” during his first days in office, making good on a campaign promise. The program required thousands of non-Mexican migrants to wait in Mexico – an unprecedented handling of immigration protocol.
Department of Homeland Security Secretary Alejandro Mayorkas in June formally ended the program, saying keeping it intact “would be a poor use of the department’s resources.”
However, Judge Matthew Kacsmaryk, a Trump appointee, directed the Biden administration to reinstate the program, saying the administration “failed to consider several critical factors” when ending the program. Kacsmaryk delayed his order for seven days to give the administration a chance to appeal.
Kacsmaryk said Mayorkas did not see the “benefits” of the program, which deterred migrants from the border. He also said Mayorkas failed to heed warnings from DHS officials who alleged the program’s repeal would lead to a surge in undocumented immigrants into the U.S and ignored the fiscal cost to states of repealing the policy.
The lawsuit was brought in April by the Republican attorney generals of Texas and Missouri, who argued that ending the MPP led to a surge in migration at the U.S.-Mexico border.
“Today, in a huge win for the Missouri Attorney General’s Office and in a big step towards securing the border, a federal court issued a nationwide permanent injunction, reversing the Biden Administration’s suspension of the program and ordering the Biden Administration to reimplement the program,” Missouri state Attorney General Schmitt said in a statement.
The Immigration Reform Law Institute, the legal arm of the anti-immigration organization Federation for American Immigration Reform, celebrated Kacsmaryk’s ruling, calling it “a major victory.”
The policy was “arbitrary and capricious because they did not provide any justification for the change in policy nor consider relevant factors in making that change,” the Immigration Reform Law Institute said in an amicus curiae supporting Texas and Missouri.
The institute also pointed to the administration ignoring “the costs that Plaintiff States would incur as a result of the suspension of the MPP program.”
In his ruling Kacsmaryk said Mayorkas’ June memo formally ending the program violated federal law.
The policy must remain in effect until the Biden administration has the ability to detain all asylum-seekers, in accordance with U.S. immigration law, and until the MPP is “lawfully rescinded.”
DHS, in partnership with the Department of Justice, rolled out the policy on Jan. 29, 2019, at the San Diego-Tijuana border region.
In past decades, asylum-seekers were allowed to wait for their immigration trial hearings in the U.S. The Trump administration implemented MPP to crack down on asylum and unauthorized immigration at the U.S.-Mexico border. It returned about 70,000 asylum-seekers to Mexico from January 2019, according to the Associated Press.
The policy led many migrants to stay in Mexican border towns often in unsafe and dangerous conditions.
From ‘zero tolerance’ to now: How America’s migrant policies have changed in the Trump and Biden years
Contributing: Rafael Carranza