Biden administration to revive Trump’s ‘remain in Mexico’ program despite claims of ‘inhumane’ treatment

The Biden administration is restarting a Trump era border policy despite the fact Biden repeatedly said the policy led to “inhumane” conditions for those migrants waiting.

The administration is restarting the policy after the Supreme Court refused to suspend a federal court order issued by Judge Matthew Kacsmarky, which demanded that the ‘Remain in Mexico’ policy was reinstated. Under this policy around 70,000 non-Mexican asylum seekers were told to wait in Mexico whilst their immigration applications were being processed.

During an interview this week, Department of Homeland Security Secretary Alejandro Mayorkas said he opposed the Remain in Mexico policy, talking about the “very poignant and powerful pictures” of the migrants’ living conditions. He talked about “The Matamoros camp where we saw individuals living in squalor who don’t have the ability to work, where the conditions are inhuman.”

Mayorkas said that he was “obliged” to revive the policy despite President Biden’s past remarks; however he did say the administration believed the policy “Is not in the best interests of individuals who are seeking humanitarian relief under United States law.” 

The DHS confirmed on Thursday that they had yet to start returning individuals to Mexico. But DHS’s logistical department has been working on plans to facilitate its “expeditious reimplementation”, including cost estimates according to an internal memo obtained by CBS News.

For the policy to effectively be implemented the Mexican government also needs to approve the plan, however up until this stage the Mexican government has described the policy as a “unilateral” U.S action. The administration had suspended the policy {also known as the Migrant Protection Protocols} on Biden’s first day in office, with Mayorkas issuing a memo terminating the program which he deemed costly and ineffective. 

The resurrection of Remain in Mexico, one of the centrepieces of Trumps’ efforts to tackle illegal immigration, would represent an extraordinary shift in border policy for President Biden, in fact it would be a complete policy U-turn. Such a move would surely anger many democratic lawmakers and migrant advocate groups.

Indeed a group of 31 democratic lawmakers led by Congresswoman Veronica Escobar and Senator Bob Menendez, wrote to Mayorkas on Wednesday telling him “It is abundantly clear that the United States cannot safely reinstate MPP and that any attempt to return people seeking safety to harm in Mexico will violate U.S and international legal obligations to refugees.”

U.S government asylum officer also expressed concern about the decision; “The reinstatement of MPP will place thousands of asylum seekers in harm’s way and deny them the right to a fair hearing of their claims”, Michael Knowles, president of AFGE Local 1924, which represents U.S asylum refugee officers. One asylum officer said he would speak out if he was instructed to participate in the policy again; telling CBS News “It’s not a process. It is an out and out deterrent. It’s a brick in the wall.” 

Some have urged Biden to introduce a gentler version of the Trump policy.  Some say the Biden administration should issue a new memo that both terminates the program and addresses the concerns raised by Judge Kacsmarky. Even if such a memo fails to satisfy Kacsmarky it could still convince the 5th Circuit Court of Appeals and the Supreme Court to suspend the ruling.




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