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A Judge Is Requiring The Biden Administration To Restart Trump’s Remain In Mexico Policy For Asylum-Seekers

The Biden administration could still ask the Supreme Court to step in and block the order to resume the Migration Protection Protocols.

Posted on August 20, 2021, at 12:21 a.m. ET

Paul Ratje / AFP via Getty Images

Boys look at a smartphone in a migrant camp across the US–Mexico border in Reynosa, Tamaulipas, Mexico, on July 10.

The Fifth Circuit Court of Appeals on Thursday denied the Biden administration’s attempt to halt a Texas federal court judge’s ruling demanding the government restart a controversial Trump-era program that forced asylum-seekers to remain in Mexico for the duration of their US immigration cases.

The policy, titled the Migration Protection Protocols, led to tens of thousands of asylum-seekers being forced to stay in Mexico as they waited for their day in a US court. They were often left with nowhere to go but squalid camps in Mexican border towns, and human rights advocates reported cases of the immigrants being kidnapped, raped, and tortured while the US government forced them to wait there.

Last week, US District Judge Matthew Kacsmaryk ordered the Biden administration to restart the program until it could rescind the policy in compliance with the Administrative Procedure Act, a potentially lengthy process. His order was set to go into effect on Saturday.

In the meantime, the Biden administration urged the Fifth Circuit Court of Appeals to stay the order while it appealed Kacsmaryk’s decision. The request was denied. The Biden administration can now request an emergency stay with the US Supreme Court.

Earlier this year, the Biden administration rescinded the policy and began to allow thousands of people caught up in Remain in Mexico to come to the US. Human Rights First has counted at least 1,544 public reports of murder, rape, and other attacks committed against people in MPP.

The Trump administration implemented the controversial program in early 2019 amid a surge of families crossing the border and seeking asylum. In the early days of the policy, which was one of multiple efforts to restrict asylum, the administration was seeing upward of 100,000 border crossings a month.

But in only about 2% of cases decided by a judge were immigrants able to get some type of relief like asylum. In late 2019, BuzzFeed News obtained a draft report from a team of senior DHS officials who examined the Remain in Mexico policy and found that border officials apparently pressured US Citizenship and Immigration Services (USCIS) officials to deny entry to immigrants.

The investigation of the DHS “Red Team” called on agencies within the department, including Customs and Border Protection, to provide immigration court hearing notices in multiple languages, improve language access, and ensure that immigrants understand the “questions asked and can make informed decisions.”

The ruling came on the same day a federal judge in Texas temporarily blocked Immigration and Customs Enforcement from enforcing priorities constructed by the Biden administration to limit arrests of immigrants in the US to public safety and national security threats, along with those who recently crossed the border without authorization.

A BuzzFeed News investigation, in partnership with the International Consortium of Investigative Journalists, based on thousands of documents the government didn't want you to see.