The United States says it has ended a Trump-era policy requiring asylum seekers to wait in Mexico for hearings on their immigration status following a Supreme Court ruling in favour of President Joe Biden’s bid to scrap the initiative.
The Migrant Protection Protocols (MPP) programme, informally known as “remain in Mexico”, will be unwound in a “quick, and orderly manner”, the Department of Homeland Security (DHS) said in a statement on Monday.
The policy, which was launched in 2019 under former Republican President Donald Trump, pushed non-Mexican asylum seekers back to Mexico to await a resolution of their US cases, which sometimes takes months or years.
No more people will be enrolled under the programme and those currently waiting in Mexico will be removed from the programme and allowed to enter the US as they return for their next scheduled court dates, DHS said in a statement.
It added the policy has “endemic flaws, imposes unjustifiable human costs, and pulls resources and personnel away from other priority efforts to secure our border”.
The move to scrap the programme came after the US Supreme Court ruled on June 30 in favour of Biden’s bid to terminate it.
But the timing of the announcement had been in doubt, with DHS officials saying they had to wait for the court to certify the ruling and for a Trump-appointed judge, Matthew Kacsmaryk in Amarillo, Texas, to then lift his injunction on scrapping the policy.
The Supreme Court certified its ruling last week and Kacsmaryk lifted his injunction on Monday.
Tens of thousands sent back
Under Trump, who made restricting both legal and illegal immigration to the US a central tenet of his time in office, the initiative forced about 70,000 non-Mexican asylum seekers back across the border where they waited in often squalid and dangerous conditions.
Biden, a Democrat, ended MPP shortly after taking office in January 2021 as part of his efforts to reverse the hardline policies of his Republican predecessor.
But the termination was blocked by a federal judge in August 2021, forcing Biden to restart the programme and eventually sending the legal fight to the Supreme Court.
As of July 6, nearly 5,800 asylum seekers had been sent to Mexico under a revamped version of the programme, according to DHS statistics.
Nicaraguans accounted for the largest number of those affected, with Cuban, Colombian and Venezuelan nationals also affected.
Despite Washington’s move to scrap the policy, many questions over its ongoing effects remain, including whether those whose claims have been denied or dismissed will get a second chance or if those whose next court dates are months away will be allowed to return to the US sooner.
DHS said it will provide additional information “in the coming days”.