The Supreme Court late Friday put a temporary halt on a court order that would’ve forced the Biden administration to reinstate the previous administration’s inhumane and unlawful Remain in Mexico policy. The lower court decision, issued by a judge installed by the previous administration and upheld by an appeals court, would’ve again forced asylum-seekers to wait for their U.S. immigration court dates in dangerous regions of Mexico beginning on Saturday. The ruling stems from a lawsuit launched by a number of Republican attorneys general.
“Justice Samuel Alito issued the temporary stay late Friday night,” the Associated Press reported. “It will remain in effect until Tuesday night so the high court can consider filings in the case.” In a tweet following the Supreme Court’s temporary halt of Judge Matthew Kacsmaryk’s order, American Immigration Council (AIC) Policy Counsel Aaron Reichlin-Melnick wrote that “the real test comes after briefing is concluded on Tuesday.”
AIC was among the organizations that filed a legal brief to the Supreme Court “laying out exactly what the district court and the Fifth Circuit got wrong in their decisions” ordering the reinstatement of Migrant Protection Protocols, which is more commonly known as Remain in Mexico. The brief calls Remain in Mexico “a humanitarian catastrophe,” with asylum-seekers “murdered, raped, kidnapped, extorted, and compelled to live in squalid conditions where they faced significant procedural barriers to meaningfully presenting their protection claims.”
“In proceedings below, the district court and the Fifth Circuit ignored these serious and intractable problems, which DHS acknowledged in ending MPP, and ordered DHS to abandon its chosen methods of border management and reinstate MPP,” AIC, Human Rights First, Center for Gender & Refugee Studies, and the Southern Poverty Law Center said.
As previously noted, the Biden administration needs the cooperation of Mexico in order to reinstate the policy. That so far hasn’t happened. “Reinstating the program by Saturday would have been ‘nearly impossible,’ Assistant Homeland Security Secretary David Shahoulian wrote in a court declaration earlier this week,” CBS News reported. The Washington Post reports that a Mexican official said “[w]e have not been notified about it, and we have no official communication from the government of the United States about the matter, so we can’t comment at the moment.”
“Our client, former U.S. Customs and Immigration Service asylum officer Douglas Stephens, was one of the very first to raise concerns that MPP violated numerous laws and treaty obligations and posed a significant threat of harm to asylum seekers forced to remain in Mexico,” the Government Accountability Project tweeted. Stephens made national headlines in late 2019 when he resigned rather than help implement the unlawful policy. “You’re literally sending people back to be raped and killed,” he told The Los Angeles Times. “That’s what this is.”
In addition to stopping new Remain in Mexico enrollments, the Biden administration announced in June that it would be giving a second chance to the cases of asylum-seekers who were forced to wait in Mexico but then missed those court dates for reasons that included being the victims of kidnapping and other violence.
In one case, “a woman explained to the immigration judge at her February 2020 court hearing in Laredo that her 17-year-old son was not in court with her and the rest of their family because he had been kidnapped by members of a cartel,” Human Rights Watch said in a January 2021 report. The boy was ordered deported. “This boy had been taken by a cartel because the US government sent him back to Nuevo Laredo,” Human Rights Watch attorney Alysha Welsh said in the report.
“The Trump Administration’s MPP program was not only cruel and inhumane, it was also unjust — and, the Biden Administration was absolutely correct in putting an end to it,” the Post reports Immigration Hub Deputy Director Kerri Talbot said in a statement. “Trump’s MPP put thousands of vulnerable asylum-seekers at risk of extreme violence in camps, with at least 1,500 reported instances of murder, rape, kidnapping, and other violent attacks while they waited in limbo without representation and safety.” Remain in Mexico must never again be reinstated.