Michael Swartz / October 20, 2021

Will Biden Follow the ‘Remain in Mexico’ Policy?

Dragged kicking and screaming by the courts, Team Biden will reinstate it … for now.

It’s been almost two months since the Supreme Court let stand a lower court ruling admonishing the Biden administration for not properly rescinding President Donald Trump’s “Remain in Mexico” policy for those seeking asylum for economic reasons. Now, Joe Biden is half-heartedly putting it back.

The Trump program was needed because, as political commentator Rick Moran put it: “The [policy] had been extraordinarily effective in requiring potential asylum seekers to wait in Mexico for their cases to be decided by an immigration court. The process was good at weeding out bogus or insufficient asylum claims without letting people into the country. It also helped end the process of ‘catch and release’ — a policy Biden has been trying to reimplement.”

Since the Biden administration had no alternative that “would accomplish the same goals” as the Trump program, more formally known as the Migrant Protection Protocols (MPP), a federal judge last week ordered the government to “enforce and implement” the MPP program as soon as possible. In its first notice of compliance, the Department of Homeland Security revealed it anticipated the program could restart as soon as mid-November.

“The Administration’s reversal is a tacit admission that Mr. Biden’s immigration policy has failed,” argues The Wall Street Journal. “Migrants interpreted the end of Remain in Mexico, among other Biden policies, as an invitation to cross the border, enter the U.S. and claim asylum. Many are then released into the U.S. while they await asylum hearings, and many never show up. In the first 11 months of fiscal 2021, through August, border agents recorded more than 1.5 million encounters with migrants.”

The one fly in the ointment may be Mexico itself. Mexico has two conditions for continued assistance with the U.S. program: a nebulous request for “better coordination” and a more concrete desire that cases be adjudicated within six months of enrollment. The latter may be an issue given the increasing number of would-be asylum seekers who have crossed the border this year, even despite the summer heat that usually puts a damper on illegal crossing.

Yet while DHS Secretary Alejandro Mayorkas has called the border situation “unsustainable,” the lack of urgency to staunch the flow northward is an indication that policymakers in the White House either disagree with or don’t care about Mayorkas’s assessment. For them, being unsustainable may be a Cloward-Piven feature and not a bug.

And while DHS is figuring on a mid-November date for resumption, there are too many loose ends out there to assume they will return on schedule. It’s not unusual for a government promise of a few weeks out to morph into sometime next spring and eventually the twelfth of never. If we get either a temperamental Mexican government or an obstinate administration that slow-walks its compliance, the current “catch and release” process will continue (like flying migrants to New York in the dead of night), much to the detriment of our economy and national security. Last month, we noted that this was a border surge that Biden wanted, and it’s going to take more than one court order to keep him from his goal.

Update 10/29: That didn’t last long. Mayorkas announced that even though Remain in Mexico was successful in reducing illegal immigration, the administration is once again moving to end it.

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