Biden feels the heat from all sides on 'Remain in Mexico' policy

·5 min read
Biden feels the heat from all sides on 'Remain in Mexico' policy

President Joe Biden’s attempt to shed immigration and asylum policies he denounced as “inhumane” and “dangerous” on the campaign trail has become the most persistent operational and diplomatic crisis facing his administration, leaving him with few palatable options to handle a migration surge and adverse court rulings.

Among the Trump administration policies Biden has sought to dismantle was a requirement that asylum-seekers live in Mexico while awaiting a U.S. court hearing. Biden rescinded "Remain in Mexico," as it was informally known, on his first day in office.


But the Supreme Court last month denied a Biden administration request to stay a ruling in the U.S. District Court for the Northern District of Texas, ordering a return to the Trump administration’s Migrant Protection Protocols immigration rule.

Biden was sued by Texas and Missouri, arguing the surge in migrant arrivals “imposed severe and ongoing burdens” on their states. Roughly 213,000 people were apprehended while attempting to cross the border illegally in July, an increase from 74,000 in December before Biden took office.

Biden officials have begun talks with the Mexican government over restarting the practice. However, no country under international law is required to accept anyone who is not a citizen, said Theresa Cardinal Brown, managing director of immigration and cross-border policy at the Bipartisan Policy Center in Washington.

“If Mexico were to say, ‘No, we’re not going to take back people into our territory under MPP,' then the administration can’t proceed,” Brown said.

The Biden administration has said it will abide by the rule “in good faith” while continuing a challenge in court. Still, they face diplomatic and logistical hurdles in confronting the challenge.

“Our point of view continues to be that this program was not implemented in a moral way,” said White House press secretary Jen Psaki during a briefing with reporters. “It was inefficient. It used [Customs and Border Protection] resources. It led to a backlog in the system. And it is fundamentally a program we have opposed, but we are also abiding by a court order.”

Martha Bárcena, the former Mexican ambassador to the United States who negotiated the rule’s implementation under Trump, suggested the program may need to be smaller because Mexico’s resources are limited.

“I think Mexico is willing to help asylum-seekers on a humanitarian basis, as long as the numbers are manageable,” Bárcena told the Washington Post. "The lesson from the last time was that the U.S. doesn’t keep its promise to rapidly process their cases.”

Mexico has refused to take back families expelled under a public health rule implemented during the coronavirus pandemic, possibly indicating a broader reluctance to help the U.S. with its migration challenges.

“If Mexico is not taking them back under Title 42, why would they take them back under MPP?” Brown said. Civil society groups in Mexico have urged the government to reject a return to the program.

There’s also the challenge of quickly shoring up the system the administration dismantled.

“Diplomacy takes a while, first of all. And second of all, they have undone much of the operational apparatus that allowed MPP to work, like the courts [and] the transportation system that moves migrants to and from the ports [of entry],” said Brown, a former policy adviser at U.S. Customs and Border Protection and director of the Immigration Legislation Task Force in the Department of Homeland Security Office of Policy. “They have a logistical issue. They have a diplomatic issue. And they have a policy issue because they don’t support the policy at all.”

The administration’s response could hamper Democrats politically.

Biden’s approval ratings have been pulled downwards by the crisis along the U.S.-Mexico border, including among independents, a crucial source of support in the midterm elections.

In an April Washington Post/ABC poll, just 37% of voters said they approved of Biden’s handling of the issue, including 32% of independents, while 53% disapproved. Biden’s approval on the issue fell by 4 percentage points in a June poll, though a slightly smaller share (51%) said they disapproved.

Even friendly editorial pages have noted the “incoherence” of Biden’s immigration policies, warning Democrats could lose control of the House and Senate in 2022 if the administration continued its path.

“In its apparent desperation to fashion an immigration strategy that will impose order on increasingly out-of-control migration, the Biden administration has unleashed a torrent of words and goals untethered to specific policies and timetables,” a Washington Post editorial stated. “Officials have effectively reversed and rolled back some of the Trump administration’s most pernicious policies, but without a clear road map to address the immediate crisis — a decades-high surge in illegal border-crossing — or the long-term challenge driving migration: dysfunction, disorder, and decay in Central America.”

Brown said the system needs resources to move through a backlog of immigration cases in courts and government agencies.

“The legal processing of visas and naturalization at [U.S. Citizenship and Immigration Services] is over a million to two million cases backlogged. The State Department is going to lose 100,000 legal immigrant visas this year because it can’t process them,” Brown said. “We’ve just resettled 40,000 people from Afghanistan.”


Recently, Biden’s top immigration official, Secretary Alejandro Mayorkas, privately admitted that “if our border are the first line of defense, we’re going to lose, and this is unsustainable.”

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Tags: News, Biden Administration, Immigration, Border Crisis, Mexico, Border Security, Joe Biden, White House

Original Author: Katherine Doyle

Original Location: Biden feels the heat from all sides on 'Remain in Mexico' policy

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