Dec 2, 2021 - Politics & Policy

Biden to restart "Remain in Mexico" program

A border patrol officer begins processing a family after they crossed the Rio Grande into the U.S.
A Border Patrol officer begins processing a family after they crossed the Rio Grande into the U.S. Photo: Brandon Bell/Getty Images

The Trump-era "Remain in Mexico" program will resume Monday as long as Mexico officially approves the plan, as expected Thursday, U.S. administration officials told reporters.

Why it matters: President Biden has been forced by court order to restart the controversial program, which makes asylum seekers wait in Mexico for their U.S. court hearings. The administration is simultaneously seeking to end the program, again.

Between the lines: This time, before agreeing to cooperate, Mexico has demanded several humanitarian changes to what is formally called the Migrant Protection Protocols (MPP).

  • "These are improvements that we agree with and that we will be making," one administration official said.

The new version of MPP will differ from President Trump's in a handful of ways, according to the officials:

  • All migrants will be offered the COVID-19 vaccine before being returned to Mexico.
  • U.S. officials will attempt to complete all MPP asylum cases within 180 days.
  • When asked, migrants who express fear of being returned to Mexico will be given 24 hours to consult with an attorney before an interview with a U.S. immigration official, which will determine whether the migrant is placed in MPP or not.
  • There also will be a lower bar to meet for migrants claiming fear of persecution in Mexico.
  • The categories for potential exemption from MPP will also be expanded to include people with physical and mental health challenges, the elderly and those at risk of discrimination because of gender or sexual identity.

The details: Axios reported last week that the administration had been readying to launch the program as soon as this week, a timeline that was pushed back only slightly.

  • MPP will kick off on Monday at just one port of entry along the border, but the exact site has not been finalized, the officials said.
  • Migrants will cross back into the U.S. for court hearings through legal border entry points in San Diego, California, as well as El Paso, Brownsville and Laredo, Texas.
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