Two Trump-era policies severely restricting access to asylum at the U.S.-Mexico border have remained or been recently reinstated, to the dismay of immigrant advocates. This article was published in the September-October 2021 issue of NewsNotes.
The Biden administration has maintained or reinstated two border policies initiated by the Trump administration, despite its campaign promises to swiftly address the near-total breakdown of processing of asylum seekers at the U.S.-Mexico border.
While the Biden administration had begun to wind down the Trump administration’s Migrant Protection Protocols (MPP) or “Remain in Mexico” policy, on August 24 the Supreme Court ruled to uphold a lower court decision that will result in the reinstatement of the policy.
The MPP policy requires asylum seekers to be returned to Mexico to await the adjudication of their asylum claims rather than being allowed to remain in the United States. It has resulted in asylum seekers being forced to wait in dangerous and unsanitary conditions, such as sprawling tent camps, in northern Mexican border cities.
In response to the Supreme Court decision, Las Americas Immigrant Resource Center in El Paso, where Maryknoll lay missioner Heidi Cerneka works as an immigration attorney, wrote:
“As the Biden Admin ended MPP, the silver lining for our Mexico team was being able to help with the entry of thousands of asylum seekers… That joy is gone for now. The fight gets a little harder tonight…There is no gentler MPP. We need the Administration to renew their commitment to humanity at the border and take action now.”
In addition, the Biden administration has kept in place the Title 42 health order which, citing COVID-19 concerns, allows border officials to bypass asylum procedures to immediately deport asylum seekers. In an op-ed in The Hill, Dylan Corbett, director of the Hope Border Institute in El Paso, Texas, wrote, “To be clear, Title 42 was never about public health; last year a high caliber group of 172 public health experts rightly termed Title 42 ‘xenophobia masquerading as a public health measure.’”
“It will take political courage, but the Biden administration must adhere to the law and our international humanitarian obligations by rescinding Title 42 and fully restoring asylum at the border,” concluded Corbett.
Photo: An overcrowded, fenced area holds families at a Border Patrol station in McAllen, Texas, on 10 June 2019. Reuters/Flickr.