With 2nd wind down, more questions arise for the future of 'Remain in Mexico' program

Published: Wednesday, August 10, 2022 - 4:59pm
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The Biden administration announced that it would begin winding down the Migrant Protection Protocols program, or MPP. It's the second time the administration’s attempted to end the Trump-era program that forced over 70,000 asylum seekers to await U.S. hearings in Mexico. 

A lawsuit led by Texas and Missouri required the administration to resume MPP late last year. The case made its way to the Supreme Court, which sided with the government in June. The program is ending again now, as planned in a November 2021 memo by Department of Homeland Security Secretary Alejandro Mayorkas.

But Aaron Rechlin-Melnick, policy director of the American Immigration Council, which advocates for immigrants, says a new legal challenge could complicate that process. 

"Texas and Missouri are asking Judge Kacsmaryk in Texas to effectively delay the new termination from going into effect, even though from the Department of Homeland Security’s perspective, that termination has already gone into effect," he said. 

U.S. District Court Judge Matthew Kacsmaryk is still reviewing that motion, which the states filed hours after the government announced the end of MPP on Monday.

Meanwhile, other questions remain for asylum seekers part of the program — like those enrolled in MPP under the Trump administration. Some were allowed to enter the U.S during the Biden administration's first wind down of the program last year. But Nicole Ramos, who leads the border rights project at the legal aid group Al Otro Lado, says many didn’t make it to the border within that timeframe. Others missed court dates because of things like miscommunication and travel issues, and had their cases closed in absentia. 

"Once that wind down ended, there was very little that we could do for those folks," she said. 

Ramos said she hopes those cases can be revisited now.

The Department of Homeland Security did not answer questions about cases still unresolved from the Trump administration's version of MPP. In a statement announcing the rollback, the agency said no new MPP cases would be opened and migrants enrolled in the program under the Biden administration would be allowed to dis-enroll during their next court hearings. 

Ramos said Al Otro Lado helped migrants enrolled in the first iteration of MPP but opted not to offer the same services under the new version, which enrolled just over 5000 asylum seekers border wide. Instead, the group is focused on helping asylum seekers still blocked by the pandemic-era protocol, Title 42.

"We didn't want to give legitimacy to the Biden MPP 2.0 friendlier version," she said. "I think it's important for the U.S. public to understand that the Biden administration has a lot of choices before it in terms of how it relieves the suffering of asylum seekers that have been trapped here as a result of Trump policies that President Biden has continued."

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