White House renews offer to end “stay in Mexico” policy

The Biden administration on Friday launched a second offer to end a Trump-era policy of making asylum seekers in Mexico wait for hearings in the U.S. immigration court, while also reaffirming its commitment to reinstate him by court order.

Homeland Security Secretary Alejandro Mayorkas said the “stay in Mexico” policy likely contributed to a drop in illegal border crossings in 2019, but with “substantial and unjustifiable human costs” for asylum seekers who were exposed to violence while waiting in Mexico.

The announcement came more than two months after a federal judge ordered the reinstatement of the policy “in good faith,” while leaving the administration free to try again to justify ending it.

The administration said earlier this month that it plans to reinstate the policy, officially known as “Migrant Protection Protocols,” around mid-November, subject to Mexican government approval. Mexico wants cases to generally end within six months, quick and accurate access to case information, and better access to legal advice for asylum seekers.

Some of the administration’s most prominent pro-immigration allies say the time it took Mayorkas to draft Friday’s notice showed a lack of urgency, which US officials dispute.

Many US-based legal aid groups that have represented asylum seekers waiting in Mexico say they will no longer take such cases, raising questions about how the US can accommodate the claim. Mexico’s insistence on better access to a lawyer. Administration officials say they believe there are enough other lawyers who will represent asylum seekers returned to Mexico.

About 70,000 asylum seekers have been subjected to the policy, which then-President Trump introduced in January 2019 and which his successor, Joe Biden, suspended on the first day of his term in office. Mayorkas ended the policy in June after an internal review, saying it had achieved “mixed effectiveness”.

Illegal border crossings fell sharply after Mexico, faced with the threat of higher tariffs from Trump, nodded in 2019 to the policy’s rapid expansion. Asylum seekers suffered major violence while waiting in Mexico and faced many legal obstacles, such as accessing lawyers and information about the cases.

Mayorkas said on Friday that his second review assumed the policy was causing a significant drop in border crossings, calling it the strongest argument to maintain it. Still, he said the benefits do not outweigh the costs in terms of relations with Mexico, resources and risks associated with exposure to violence while waiting in Mexican border towns.

“[There] are inherent program problems that no amount of resources can sufficiently solve, ”he wrote. “Others cannot be addressed without undermining key government priorities and more durable solutions. “

A three-judge panel of the U.S. 5th Circuit Court of Appeals is due to hear arguments Tuesday in a lawsuit filed by the states of Texas and Missouri. The administration is expected to request that the case be referred to Trump-appointed U.S. District Judge Matthew Kacsmaryk in Amarillo, Texas, who in August ordered the reinstatement of policy.

The administration is rebuilding tents in the Texas border towns of Laredo and Brownsville to handle “Stay in Mexico” business.

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