Oct 29, 2021 - Politics & Policy

Biden trying again to end "Remain in Mexico" policy

Photo of a group of people wearing masks and carrying luggage in a line waiting on a bridge

Migrants at the Pasó del Norte International Bridge. Photo: Paul Ratje/AFP via Getty Images

The Department of Homeland Security is issuing a memo Thursday announcing its intent to end the Trump-era "Remain in Mexico" policy, DHS officials told reporters on a call.

Why it matters: The Biden administration is currently under a court order to reimplement the policy, which is formally known as Migrant Protection Protocols (MPP). The controversial program requires many migrants to remain in Mexico while their asylum claims are processed in U.S. courts. Human rights advocates have slammed MPP as inhumane.

Catch up quick: The Biden administration first tried to end the program in June, but a U.S. District Court judge in Texas ordered the administration to restart MPP in August, arguing the White House ended the program improperly. The ruling was upheld by the Supreme Court.

Driving the news: After a thorough review, DHS Secretary Alejandro Mayorkas has determined MPP "may very well have led to a reduction of irregular migration," but the humanitarian costs do not justify the program, one DHS official said.

  • The policy "diverts resources away from other key administration priorities, including long-standing efforts to address root causes of migration and other key initiatives that are designed to develop more sustainable, effective, effective and durable reforms to the asylum system," the official said.
  • Because of the legal battle involving MPP, however, it's unclear if or when the administration will be able to actually end the policy.

What to watch: The department plans to ask the 5th Circuit Court of Appeals to vacate the district judge's ruling or send the case to the lower court so the administration can ask the Texas judge to vacate it.

  • The 5th circuit court will hear oral arguments on Nov. 2.

In the meantime, the administration is following the district judge's order and working with Mexico to address concerns raised by President Andrés Manuel López Obrador's government.

  • Mexico's agreement to accept migrants again is contingent on the U.S. meeting certain conditions, including exemptions for vulnerable migrants.

The big picture: More than 70,000 migrants have been placed in MPP since early 2019.

Go deeper