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The 'Remain in Mexico' policy of the previous administration was deemed inhumane by a number of international organizations. Photo: Andalou Agency/Getty Images

The ‘Remain in Mexico’ policy is over and it’s about time

DHS Secretary Alejandro Mayorkas announced the end of the policy in a memo sent to agency heads on Tuesday, June 1.

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The controversial “Remain in Mexico” policy, formally known as the Migration Protection Protocols, has officially ended.

After a monthslong review in his office, Homeland Security Secretary Alejandro Mayorkas sent a memo to agency heads on Tuesday, June 1, announcing that the policy is now rescinded.

On Jan. 20, Biden’s first day in office, his administration temporarily halted the program, pending review by Mayorkas.

“I have determined that MPP does not adequately or sustainably enhance border management in such a way as to justify the program's extensive operational burdens and other shortfalls. Over the course of the program, border encounters increased during certain periods and decreased during others," the memo read.

Mayorkas claims that the policy — which Trump had praised as a valuable tool in border security and that international organizations deemed inhumane — had produced “mixed results.”

He maintained that the previous policy’s focus on speed did not always line up with adequate efforts to enable migrants to attend their immigration proceedings, noting that a high number of cases were heard without migrants in attendance.

One of Trump’s goals for the MPP policy was to reduce the asylum case backlog, but Mayorkas wrote in the memo that the program backlogs actually increased.

The memo stated that the administration is contemplating reforms within the U.S. asylum system, and a key part of the reforms would involve collaborating with Mexico and Central American countries to curb the number of asylum seekers. 

These efforts would also aim to combat smuggling and trafficking networks.

"I share the belief that we can only manage migration in an effective, responsible, and durable manner if we approach the issue comprehensively, looking well beyond our own borders," Mayorkas wrote.

The formal end of MPP arrives days after the Department of Homeland Security officially banned family separations for prosecutions of illegal border crossings, another of Trump’s policies designed to slow the asylum process.

Rep. Nanette Barragán, chairwoman of the Homeland Security subcommittee on Border Security, Facilitation and Operations, and Rep. Bennie Thompson, chairman of the House Committee on Homeland Security, released a joint statement on Tuesday, June 1, applauding the announcement. 

"This policy was a stain on our nation’s history, and our longstanding tradition of protecting refugees and asylum seekers," Thompson and Barragán wrote.

“More still needs to be done to help those hurt by the policy and we look forward to working with the Administration on those efforts. We must ensure we have a just and humane asylum processing system,” they added.

Biden has faced criticism over his immigration policies from both the right and left — from one end for letting go of Trump’s restrictive approach and from the other for not moving quickly enough to dismantle it. 

Lately, the administration has sped up the pace of reform, drawing praise for ending the MPP, family separations and for providing sanctuary to Haitian immigrants in the U.S. 

“This is a huge victory. The forced return policy was cruel, depraved, and illegal, and we are glad that it has finally been rescinded," said Judy Rabinovitz, an attorney for the ACLU who led the organization's legal challenge against MPP.

Advocates still insist that obstacles for a return to a broad application of asylum law remain in place, including a measure known as Title 42, which permits U.S border officials to rapidly expel anyone crossing the border without authorization  — including potential asylum seekers — under the guise COVID-19 safety precautions. 

In a statement, Rabinovitz said that the administration must see this all the way through and ensure that everyone subjected to MPP can now pursue their asylum cases, safely and “without additional trauma and delay.” 

“It must swiftly move to dismantle the Trump administration’s other attacks on the asylum system, including the unconscionable ‘Title 42’ order,” she said. 

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