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Victory for Asylum Seekers in US Supreme Court

Biden Can End Abusive ‘Remain in Mexico’ Program, but Title 42 Expulsions Continue

A protest against the "Remain in Mexico" policy in front of the US Supreme Court, Washington, D.C., April 26, 2022. © 2022 Photo by Michael Brochstein/ Sipa via AP Images

The United States Supreme Court ruled on June 30 that President Joe Biden can end the Migrant Protection Protocols, known as the “Remain in Mexico” program. While this constitutes an important victory for the right to seek asylum in the US, most asylum seekers at the US-Mexico border are still being expelled under a broad, spurious public health policy called Title 42, without their claims for protection being considered.

Former President Donald Trump, with collaboration from Mexican President Andrés Manuel López Obrador, placed more than 71,000 asylum seekers in the Remain in Mexico program, which allowed US border officers to send non-Mexican asylum seekers to Mexico while their claims were adjudicated in US immigration courts. The program severely compromised peoples’ right to seek asylum in the US and sent many to face risks of kidnapping, extortion, rape, and other abuses in Mexico.

The Biden administration ended the program in June 2021 but restarted it six months later after a federal court ordered the administration to make a “good faith” effort to reinstate the program. From December 2021 through May 2022, the US, with Mexico’s cooperation, placed another 5,000 asylum seekers in an expanded version of Remain in Mexico.

Throughout, asylum seekers have been subjected to harsh conditions and abusive treatment in Mexico. They have often been unable to support themselves or access basic services and have had little or no recourse when criminal cartels or Mexican authorities abused them. The Remain in Mexico program also compounded existing failings in US immigration courts, including lack of access to legal counsel and minimal transparency.

The Biden administration said it will “continue ... efforts to terminate the program as soon as legally permissible,” which hopefully means the tens of thousands of asylum seekers, including more than 15,000 children, who remain stranded outside the US will now be able to enter the country while their asylum claims are pending.

The Biden administration should restart efforts to parole such asylum seekers into the country as quickly as possible and give people wrongfully blocked from access to asylum a chance to reapply. It should also do everything possible to end Title 42 expulsions, which are ongoing at the border. The US government should turn away from deadly anti-asylum and deterrence policies and invest in humane and rights-respecting border programs.

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