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‘Remain in Mexico’: Supreme Court enables Biden administration to end controversial policy

The U.S. Supreme Court ruled that the Biden administration has the power under U.S. immigration law to end the Trump administration’s “Remain in Mexico” policy.

In its 5-4 decision, the court rejected arguments from attorneys general in Texas and Missouri in the Biden v. Texas case that claimed the policy is required to remain in effect if the government does not have the resources to detain every person seeking asylum at the southern border. The Supreme Court’s action reverses the decision of the U.S. Court of Appeals for the Fifth Circuit and sends the case back to district court to further evaluate the administration’s memo ending the policy.

“The draconian ‘Remain in Mexico’ policy is a human rights failure,” said Stephanie M. Alvarez-Jones, staff attorney with the Southern Poverty Law Center’s Immigrant Justice Project. “The policy dumped tens of thousands of people into precarious, life-threatening conditions in Mexico, forcing them to wait in dangerous border towns while their cases were pending in U.S. immigration courts. The primary goal of the ‘Remain in Mexico’ policy was to keep people seeking refuge out of the U.S., no matter the cost to human life or due process.”

Officially known as the Migrant Protection Protocols (MPP), “Remain in Mexico” is a Trump-era immigration program that forces asylum seekers seeking protection at the southern border to wait in Mexico while their cases are pending in U.S. immigration courts.

Legal wrangling over the rule began immediately upon its implementation in 2019. Two weeks after the government returned the first person under the policy, the SPLC, in partnership with the ACLU and the Center for Gender and Refugee Studies, filed a lawsuit, Innovation Law Lab v. Wolf, challenging its legality on behalf of affected asylum seekers and six legal service providers.  
In October 2020, the SPLC filed an additional lawsuit, Immigrant Defenders Law Center, et al. v. Mayorkas. That challenge alleged that trapping tens of thousands of asylum seekers in dangerous zones in Mexico deprived them of access to legal assistance and other tools needed to meaningfully present their claims.   

“Today’s ruling is an important first step towards ending a horrific, racist policy designed to put asylum seekers in harm’s way,” Alvarez-Jones continued. “Policies like ‘Remain in Mexico’ and Title 42 disproportionately impact Black and Brown migrants. People arriving at the U.S. border seeking refuge deserve access to safety and to be treated with dignity. The Biden administration must keep its promise to end this catastrophic policy as soon as possible and provide relief for the tens of thousands of people who were subjected to it.”

Top picture: Children play as families live in tents at the Movimiento Juventud 2000 shelter April 9, 2022, in Tijuana, Baja California state, Mexico. Refugee migrants from Central and South American await at the camp to seek asylum in the United States. (Credit: Patrick T. Fallon/AFP via Getty Images)