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The Biden administration confirmed Thursday it will restart the Trump-era "Remain in Mexico" policy next week following a deal made with Mexico's government.
The policy, formally the Migrant Protection Protocols, requires migrants seeking asylum to wait outside the United States before their immigration court hearings. The program will restart at one border location following Monday. It will eventually spread to seven entry points, including San Diego and the Texas cities of Laredo, El Paso and Brownsville.
Biden ended the program when he took office this year, calling it inhumane given the violence migrants faced waiting in Mexico for their court hearings. Yet, Texas and Missouri officials sued the administration in April over the program's suspension, arguing that it put a burden on states given migrants use services such as the issuance of drivers licenses and provision of hospital care. A federal judge in Texas mandated its reinstatement pending the lawsuit's outcome in August.
The administration contested the order but lost in federal appeals court and the Supreme Court, later agreeing to comply with the court's ruling. Still, Biden says he intends to end the program eventually.
Biden has spent the past few weeks negotiating with the Mexican government on how to restart the program, and while discussions primarily occurred out of public view, the Mexican government released a statement Friday voicing humanitarian concerns about the program, calling for the U.S. to commit to expediting cases to limit the time that asylum seekers spend in Mexico, as well as provide them with medical care, Covid vaccines and legal support.
The Biden administration reluctantly announced plans to comply with a court order to resume the controversial "Remain in Mexico" policy and accept conditions set out by Mexico for resuming the Trump-era program. https://t.co/3Ij9OOSDz9
The U.S. plans to generally conclude all cases within six months of an individual's return to Mexico, increase access to attorneys and exclude "particularly vulnerable individuals" — the elderly or disabled — from the program. The administration said, given humanitarian concerns, that it will also offer Covid vaccines, "safe and secure shelter," health care, among other services.
Immigration advocates warn that despite humanitarian improvements, the program will still put asylum seekers at risk, with the non-profit Human Rights First has recorded more than 1,500 cases of violence, including murder, rape, torture and kidnapping, against migrants forced to return to Mexico under the policy as of February.
Senior administration officials assured reporters that the policy would be reinstated in a way that addresses "acute humanitarian concerns" that occurred under the Trump administration.
White House press secretary Jen Psaki said Monday that although Biden is committed to ending the program, "we also believe in following the law, and that's exactly what we're doing, as there was a ruling that required us moving forward with implementation."