Biden Administration Suspends ‘Remain in Mexico’ Program for Asylum Seekers

Biden Administration Suspends ‘Remain in Mexico’ Program for Asylum Seekers
A Border Patrol agent is posted in front of the U.S.-Mexico border barrier in Imperial County in Calexico, Calif., on July 24, 2020. (Mario Tama/Getty Images)
Isabel van Brugen

The Biden administration has announced that beginning Jan. 21, the Department of Homeland Security (DHS) will no longer enroll asylum seekers newly arriving on the southern border in a Trump program known as the Migrant Protection Protocols (MPP).

The DHS said in a statement Wednesday that effective Thursday, the department will “cease adding individuals into the program.” The DHS urged those currently in the program to “remain where they are, pending further official information from U.S. government officials.”

The release also advised that migrants currently on their way to the United States will not be eligible for a path to citizenship under an immigration reform proposal known as the U.S. Citizenship Act of 2021, that was sent by President Joe Biden to Congress hours earlier.

“The legalization provisions in that bill apply only to people already living in the United States,” the agency said.

The MPP program was launched in January 2019 to help stem the flow of meritless asylum claims that were clogging up the system by the hundreds of thousands. The MPP program forces asylum seekers to wait in Mexico while their asylum case is adjudicated. Prior to its implementation, thousands of illegal immigrants were released into the United States to await their cases, most failing to appear in court.

Biden in January had promised on day one of a Biden presidency to “eliminate President Trump’s decision to limit asylum and end” the program that sees asylum seekers remain in Mexico while waiting for the claims to be adjudicated.

Biden’s campaign website states he will “take urgent action to undo Trump’s damage and reclaim America’s values,” including reasserting “America’s commitment to asylum-seekers and refugees.” It says he would end Trump’s asylum policies, including the protocols.
Mark Morgan, acting chief of Customs and Border Protection, warned in a statement on Dec. 29 that rescinding humanitarian agreements that help protect America’s southern border would likely lead to “waves” of illegal immigrants attempting to cross the border.

More than 67,000 migrants were apprehended at the U.S.-Mexico border in November 2020, compared to the 33,500 apprehended in November 2019.

Separately, the agency said Wednesday that for 100 days starting Jan. 22, the Biden administration is pausing deportations for some illegal immigrants for 100 days.

The DHS will “pause removals for certain noncitizens ordered deported to ensure we have a fair and effective immigration enforcement system focused on protecting national security, border security, and public safety.”

“The pause will allow DHS to ensure that its resources are dedicated to responding to the most pressing challenges that the United States faces, including immediate operational challenges at the southwest border in the midst of the most serious global public health crisis in a century,” the statement reads. “Throughout this interim period DHS will continue to enforce our immigration laws.”

Charlotte Cuthbertson contributed to this report.
Isabel van Brugen is an award-winning journalist. She holds a master's in newspaper journalism from City, University of London.
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