National Security

DHS considering asylum for migrants whose cases were terminated under Trump

The immigration court system, run by the Department of Justice, has 1.3 million cases already on the docket
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The Department of Homeland Security (DHS) will be reconsidering the cases of migrants who were previously barred from seeking asylum in the U.S. under the Trump administration.

Former President Trump’s policy, implemented in 2019, blocked migrants at the Mexican border from entering the U.S. to apply for asylum, leaving what the Biden administration estimates is now around 35,000 people awaiting their fate in Mexico under the so-called Migrant Protection Protocols (MPP), or the “Remain in Mexico” policy. 

In a statement, DHS said the move was “part of our continued effort to restore safe, orderly, and humane processing at the Southwest Border.”

“DHS will expand the pool of MPP-enrolled individuals who are eligible for processing into the United States,” the department added. “DHS will continue to process for entry into the United States MPP enrollees with pending proceedings.”

Trump implemented Remain in Mexico in 2019, forcing immigrants fleeing dangerous situations to stay south of the border while awaiting court hearings in the U.S. Under the policy, the government removed more than 60,000 migrants to the Mexican border.

President Biden paused Remain in Mexico shortly after taking office, formally terminating the program in June. The Supreme Court has since dismissed pending legal action on the program as moot. 

“Too many people were denied their right to due process and rejected for entry into the United States under the abhorrent ‘Remain in Mexico’ policy,” House Homeland Security Committee Chairman Bennie Thompson (D-Miss.) and Rep. Nanette Diaz Barragán (D-Calif.) said in a statement.

“By keeping migrants in dangerous conditions in Mexico, the Trump administration ensured many people would not be able to appear at their hearings and their claims would be rejected. Allowing these people to be eligible for processing is the right thing to do.”

But some Republicans on the Homeland Security panel have asked DHS to turn over documents tied to their decisionmaking, with Rep. Michael Guest (R-Miss.) suggesting the Biden administration may have reversed the program too quickly to comply with the law. 

“The Department’s seemingly impulsive announcement lacked explanation, justification, or any other indicia that the decision had been made only after the careful deliberations and consultations that are both appropriate and lawfully required of Executive Branch agencies by the Administrative Procedures Act (APA),” Guest wrote in a letter to Homeland Security Secretary Alejandro Mayorkas on Tuesday.

Immigration advocates have been pushing hard for the Biden administration to reverse the program. 

The move will allow the government to reconsider the cases of some 6,686 migrants who had their cases terminated under MPP and another 27,842 migrants who received deportation orders “in absentia,” according to data collected by the University of Syracuse.  

In February the Biden administration began processing some MPP cases, allowing as many as 300 people per day to enter the U.S. at three different ports of entry.

It’s also sought to ease asylum restrictions more broadly.

Earlier this month Attorney General Merrick Garland struck down two decisions from his predecessors that limited asylum for victims of domestic violence as well as those seeking asylum based on ties to persecuted family members — something that could be particularly important to those from countries with serious gang violence.

In May, the Biden administration also created a dedicated docket to process some asylum cases — a move critics feared could shortcut migrants due process rights.

—Updated at 10:30 a.m. Joseph Choi contributed.

Tags Alejandro Mayorkas Asylum claims Bennie Thompson Donald Trump Joe Biden Merrick Garland Michael Guest Presidency of Joe Biden Remain in Mexico policy
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