Weeks after a judge ordered President Joe Biden to restore a controversial Trump-era policy requiring asylum-seekers to wait in Mexico for their day in U.S. immigration court, the administration promised Wednesday to issue a new memo ending the policy — as Biden’s immigration agenda faces court challenges, political acrimony and a surge in migration levels.
The Department of Homeland Security says it will release an updated memo within the next few weeks attempting to terminate the Trump administration’s Migrant Protection Protocols, often called the “remain in Mexico” program.
Biden initially terminated MPP earlier this year, but Judge Matthew Kacsmaryk reversed his order in August, arguing officials didn’t follow the correct steps for changing a federal policy and aren’t detaining enough asylum-seekers after entering the United States.
DHS said a new memo ending MPP will “address the concerns raised by the courts,” and it won’t become effective unless Kacsmaryk’s ruling — which the Supreme Court allowed to take effect last month — is lifted.
DHS says it’s “working in good faith to re-start MPP in compliance with [Kacsmaryk’s] order,” a process that will require cooperation from the Mexican government, which has been noncommittal about allowing MPP to fully resume so far.
Starting in 2019, former President Donald Trump required tens of thousands of migrants who attempted to seek asylum in the United States to temporarily stay on the Mexican side of the border — often in makeshift camps — while awaiting court proceedings. The policy was part of a broader Trump-era strategy to limit new asylum cases, reduce unauthorized border-crossings and deter people from making the perilous journey in the first place. But MPP earned near-constant criticism and drew legal challenges: Critics called the policy inhumane and dangerous, pointing to scores of kidnappings and assaults of asylum-seekers who were forced to stay in Mexican border cities, and warned it could run afoul of the government’s legal obligation to grant asylum to those who fear persecution in their home country. Biden gradually unwound MPP earlier this year and allowed many of its enrollees to enter the United States.
The uncertainty over MPP comes amid a surge in border crossings. Border Patrol apprehended nearly 196,000 migrants at the U.S.-Mexico border last month and more than 200,000 in July, adding to a months-long streak of 20-year highs. The Biden administration says this uptick is due to poverty and violence in Central America and unusually high recidivism rates for border-crossers, though Republicans have blamed Biden’s attempts to lift Trump’s hardline immigration rules. Most recently, thousands of Haitian migrants crossed into the Texas city of Del Rio and camped out underneath a bridge earlier this month, overwhelming immigration agents, leading the Biden administration to controversially ramp up removal flights to Haiti.
The Biden administration has faced other court battles over its immigration policies. A Texas federal judge halted Biden’s 100-day moratorium on most deportations in January, and a Texas court forced Biden in July to stop granting new applications in the Deferred Action for Childhood Arrivals program, an Obama-era policy offering temporary protection and work permits to undocumented immigrants who entered the United States as children. A D.C. federal judge also barred Biden from rapidly expelling families caught crossing the U.S.-Mexico border, a practice started by Trump but defended by the Biden administration.