Biden Administration Still Hasn’t Ended ‘Remain in Mexico’

On June 30, the Supreme Court ruled that the Biden Administration has the authority to terminate the Migrant Protection Protocols (MPP), a Trump-era border policy also known as “Remain in Mexico” that forced asylum seekers to wait in Mexico while their case was adjudicated in the U.S. The Biden Administration has yet to end the policy a month following that ruling.

Experts believe that the Biden Administration is moving cautiously to end MPP in order not to be involved in another lengthy legal fight. “There has been continual pushback, especially from those courts, to the Administration’s executive actions,” says Doris Meissner, senior fellow and director of the U.S. Immigration Policy Program at the Migration Policy Institute (MPI), a nonpartisan research organization. “Everything has to be absolutely dot-the-I’s cross-the-T’s, because we’re seeing a pattern here that is likely to continue.”

Biden’s Administration tried to stop MPP by June 2021 but was stopped from doing so in the Northern District of Texas. The judge issued an injunction following a lawsuit filed by the Missouri and Texas conservative Attorneys General. While the Biden Administration ultimately prevailed at the nation’s highest court, the Supreme Court has to certify its June 30 opinion and then send it down the ladder to the Fifth Circuit Court of Appeals so that the Texas district court can formally end the injunction. This process could take several weeks or even months to complete.

Learn more: The U.S. Immigration Policy is in the Hands of Judges

“The injunction remains in place until it is lifted,” a Department of Homeland Security (DHS) spokesperson tells TIME. “This will not happen until after the Supreme Court’s judgment has issued, and the lower courts take further action. DHS will take immediate steps to terminate MPP as soon as legally permissible and urges the courts to act expeditiously once the judgment has issued.”

Immigrant advocacy groups are putting pressure on DHS for faster action. “Their hands aren’t tied,” says Blaine Bookey, legal director of the Center for Gender and Refugee Studies at the University of California, Hastings. “Every single day [MPP is] in place it’s causing harm, it’s endangering lives, and it’s frankly allowing the Trump Administration to rule from the grave.”

While MPP proceedings are ongoing, the Biden administration could prepare to end it. DHS may begin working with shelters at the border and local organizations in order to permit MPP participants to legal cross into the U.S. immigrant advocates suggest. It could also close down tent courts that host MPP hearings. Advocates who spoke to TIME say they haven’t seen evidence of these actions, and DHS did not immediately respond to TIME when asked about them.

MPP started in January 2019 and around 71,000 asylum seekers had been enrolled by Donald Trump’s departure. People without a place to stay formed tent camps along the Mexican border. The largest was in Matamoros which is located across from Brownsville Texas. Those who lived in the area were often subject to violence.

DHS began to allow those already in MPP to legal cross the border while they waited for the rest of their asylum cases in the U.S. at the beginning of the Biden Administration. After failing to terminate the program officially in July 2021 DHS decided to restart MPP in December. According to the Transactional Records Access Clearinghouse at Syracuse University, approximately 5,000 people had enrolled in MPP as of May 2022.

Though many immigrant advocates and humanitarian aid workers at the U.S.-Mexico border await the official end of MPP, it isn’t the only Trump-era policy forcing migrants to wait in Mexico. U.S. border officials used Title 42 in an emergency to remove anyone arriving at the border. This was in order to stop the spread COVID-19. More than 2,000,000 Title 42 expulsions took place at the U.S. border with Mexico since its inception. Other tent encampments, such as the one in Matamoros, have also been formed across the border in McAllen (Texas) from the Border. Mexican authorities closed the Reynosa tent encampment in May.

Continue reading: Biden Is Expelling Migrants On COVID-19 Grounds, But Health Experts Say That’s All Wrong

Although the U.S. Centers for Disease Control and Prevention had announced that Title 42 would be canceled in April, conservative Attorneys general quickly brought a suit and a Louisiana federal judge ordered that Title 42 expulsions continue in May.

Felicia Rangl-Samponaro co-director of The Sidewalk School in Matamoros, which she founded to support children stranded in the encampments. Felicia wants Biden Administration swiftly to stop MPP. But “MPP could end right now as we speak and that would make no difference and Reynosa or Matamoros,” she says. “People will still be stuck [in Mexico]. The expulsions will continue to Reynosa seven days a week.”

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