The Department of Homeland Security (DHS) has officially terminated the “remain in Mexico” policy that was initiated under former President Donald Trump’s administration, which enabled immigration agencies to keep illegal immigrants and asylum-seekers in Mexico while they waited for their court date.
President Joe Biden in January suspended the Migrant Protection Protocols (MPP)—the official name for the policy—but the DHS instructed employees in the memo on Tuesday that they will no longer be enforcing the mandate. Since Jan. 20, when Biden took office, he’s issued dozens of executive orders rescinding Trump-era immigration policies.
On Feb. 2, the president called on agencies responsible for enforcing immigration rules to review the MMP and consider terminating it. According to the new memo, DHS Secretary Alejandro Mayorkas said the program didn’t “adequately or sustainably enhance border management.”
“Having now completed the further review undertaken pursuant to Executive Order 14010 to determine whether to terminate or modify MPP, and for the reasons outlined below, I am by this memorandum terminating the MPP program,” he said in the memo released on the agency’s website. “I direct DHS personnel to take all appropriate actions to terminate MPP, including taking all steps necessary to rescind implementing guidance and other directives or policy guidance issued to implement the program.”
“Moreover, in making my assessment, I share the belief that we can only manage migration in an effective, responsible, and durable manner if we approach the issue comprehensively, looking well beyond our own borders,” Mayorkas added.
The program was implemented in 2019, and reports have said more than 67,000 people were enrolled. Asylum-seekers and illegal immigrants who presented themselves to Border Patrol officers or were arrested along the U.S.-Mexico border were sent to Mexico where they would remain likely for months for immigration court proceedings.
Republicans will likely criticize the DHS’s move to officially end the program as part of their strategy to portray the administration as having weak, ineffective immigration policies. In mid-May, 20 GOP governors sent a letter to the administration, calling on officials to “take action” on the surge of illegal immigrants.
“Contrary to statements from your Administration, the border is neither closed nor secure,” the governors said, saying the surge of illegal immigration “is now spilling over the border states into all of our states.”
The U.S. Customs and Border Protection in April said that there were 172,000 encounters between Border Patrol agents and illegal immigrants in March, including nearly 19,000 unaccompanied children.
Biden and many Democrats have defended the administration’s policies and claimed the Trump-era policies undermined the U.S. immigration system and needed to be overhauled, something Trump and former federal immigration officials have denied.