The Biden administration formally ended the Trump-era policy of returning asylum seekers to Mexico until their court dates in the United States, according to a memo issued by Homeland Security Secretary Alejandro Mayorkas.
Shortly after President Joe Biden took office, the Department of Homeland Security suspended new enrollments to the program formally known as Migrant Protection Protocols. The department subsequently kicked off the process of gradually allowing asylum seekers previously subject to the program into the US. Between February 19 and May 25, around 11,200 migrants were processed into the US, according to Mayorkas’ memo Tuesday.
Mayorkas said he had determined that the policy, informally known as “remain in Mexico,” had “mixed effectiveness.”
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“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,” Mayorkas wrote to the leaders of the three DHS immigration agencies.
Immigrant advocates applauded the move Tuesday, calling it a “huge victory.” “The forced return policy was cruel, depraved, and illegal, and we are glad that it has finally been rescinded,” said Judy Rabinovitz, American Civil Liberties Union attorney and lead counsel in a case challenging the policy.
Under President Donald Trump, migrants from Central America and other parts of the world who were seeking asylum at the US-Mexico border were forced to stay in Mexico until their immigration court hearings in the US, often in dangerous cities. An estimated 68,000 migrants were returned to Mexico under the policy, according to DHS.
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For those subject to the policy, that meant waiting months, if not years, in squalid conditions and under the threat of extortion, sexual assault and kidnapping.
The policy was an unprecedented departure from previous protocols, which had allowed for the entry of migrants as they went through their immigration hearings in the United States.