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The Department of Homeland Security said late Monday it is preparing to quickly end the Trump-era “remain in Mexico” program and will no longer send asylum-seekers back across the border to await a decision on their applications for U.S. protection.
The announcement came after U.S. District Judge Matthew Kacsmaryk lifted his injunction blocking Biden officials from ending the program, formally known as the Migrant Protection Protocols.
The U.S. Supreme Court ruled June 30 that the Biden administration had the authority to terminate the program, opening a path for DHS to finally bring a close to one of the Trump administration’s most contentious border measures.
DHS officials said asylum-seekers waiting in Mexico for their appointments in the U.S. immigration court would be allowed to cross the border on the day of their hearings and stay in the United States while awaiting an outcome.
“As Secretary [Alejandro] Mayorkas has said, MPP has endemic flaws, imposes unjustifiable human costs, and pulls resources and personnel away from other priority efforts to secure our border,” the DHS statement read.
President Joe Biden quickly ended the program after taking office, but Kacsmaryk sided last fall with several Republican-led state officials who sued the administration to force a restart of MPP. Between December and early July, about 5,800 asylum-seekers were sent back to Mexico to await their U.S. court dates, the latest DHS records show. Most were adults from Nicaragua and Venezuela.
Under President Donald Trump, his administration used MPP much more aggressively, sending nearly 70,000 people back to Mexico after negotiating the program with Mexican authorities and implementing it in late 2018. Trump officials said the returns were necessary to prevent migrants from using the U.S. asylum system to avoid detention and deportation.
Asylum-seekers with pending claims are typically allowed to live and work in the United States while awaiting a response. The process can drag out for several years because U.S. immigration courts are swamped by backlogs.
MPP was reviled by immigration advocates who reported documented assaults, kidnappings and other crimes against asylum-seekers returned to dangerous Mexican border cities or stranded in a notorious tent camp along the Rio Grande.
In its ruling, the Supreme Court determined in a 5-4 opinion that Kacsmaryk went too far by requiring Biden to keep in place policies that infringe on his ability to enforce immigration laws and shape foreign policy, given that MPP relied on agreements with Mexico.
DHS officials said they would provide more information about their preparations to end the program “in the coming days.”
“MPP enrollees should follow the directions on their court documents and tear sheets to appear for their scheduled court date as required,” the statement read.
Maria Sacchetti and Robert Barnes contributed to this report.
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