Biden won a big immigration victory by the Supreme Court, but challenges remain

“We certainly hope and expect the administration to act quickly to end this program and to ensure that asylum seekers who have been trapped in these very dangerous circumstances have a quick way to be admitted. to the United States to have their case processed, » said Sergio Gonzales, executive director of the Immigration Hub and former senior policy adviser to the then-senator. Kamala Harris.

The court’s decision on Thursday leaves the door open for Republican-ruled states to challenge the termination of the program, officially known as the Migrant Protection Protocols, or MPPs, again on different grounds in lower courts.

Still, immigrant advocates and Democratic leaders have called on Biden to quickly and completely end the program, which forces asylum seekers to wait in Mexico while their case continues in U.S. immigration courts.

They also cautioned the Biden administration against letting the decision distract it from taking steps to end other Trump-era border policies, particularly the public health directive known as the title 42. Last month, a federal judge blocked the White House from lifting the restriction, which the Trump administration imposed at the start of the pandemic.

The Justice Department has appealed the Title 42 ruling, but immigration lawyers say Biden officials could do more, namely launch a public consultation process, to address the merits of the order. judge. The judge found that the administration failed to comply with the law because it failed to publish a Federal Register notice seeking comment on its plans to end the use of Title 42.

In its Thursday statement on the MPP’s decision, DHS specifically noted that it « continues to enforce our immigration laws at the border and administer the consequences for those who enter illegally, and will continue to enforce mandated by the Court of Title 42 of the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention public health order”.

In the run-up to Thursday’s decision, Biden administration officials have largely avoided the ‘Stay in Mexico’ case and haven’t mentioned how they would react to a decision, though a decision in late June is widely expected. , according to several Hill aides and immigrant advocates. in contact with the White House.

Biden officials made no mention of the MPP’s next move during a weekly call with Hill’s immigration staff on June 24 or in the weeks prior, according to a Senate Democratic aide. Another Democratic aide said administration officials generally avoided talking about immigration, especially after Democrats on the Hill split over the administration. previous attempts to lift title 42.

Ahead of the MPP’s decision, a senior administration official said plans to respond were the responsibility of Homeland Security.

« This is an area where DHS is following court rulings and for the rest of us we are waiting to see how the court process unfolds as we continue to work very closely with Mexicans on migration issues in the country. broad sense,” the senior official said.

In the decision, the majority opinion specifically said that a DHS memo issued in October to end the MPP « constituted a final action by the agency. » In the memo, Homeland Security Secretary Alejandro Mayorkas said the termination of the program « will be implemented as soon as possible following a final court decision to overturn the Texas injunction. »

On the Hill, some Democratic lawmakers pushed for opportunism.

« I urge the Biden administration to do everything in their power to quickly end ‘Stay in Mexico’ once and for all, » Sen. Alex Padilla said in a statement. « Misguided and inhuman Trump-era policies like ‘Stay in Mexico’ and Title 42 have only decimated an already broken immigration system. »

Sen. Bob Menendez (DN.J.) also emphasized the need to end Title 42 in his statement on Thursday’s decision. He called on « all Democrats to unite against a failed policy that erodes the security of our borders by incentivizing smugglers. » And Rep. Joaquin Castro (D-Texas) called on the administration to « act quickly » to end the program and « establish a legal framework to untie Title 42. »

Several immigrant advocates have noted that even if the administration moves quickly to end the « Remain in Mexico » program, thousands of migrants will still be turned away from the U.S. border without being allowed to seek asylum because Title 42 remains in place. square.

In May, 1,460 migrants were returned to Mexico through the MPP, according to DHS figures. That same month, more than 100,000 migrants were deported under Title 42.

« The real problem at the border now is that the Title 42 policy remains in place and subjects countless asylum seekers to untold harm. Unfortunately, the White House appears to be leaving Title 42 in place despite the horrific consequences for desperate asylum seekers,” said Lee Gelernt, the ACLU’s lead counsel in the policy challenges.

Meanwhile, Congress remains unlikely and unable to strike any deal on immigration that would have enough votes to pass the Senate, a sore point for some Democrats who have been vocal for years in favor of immigration reform.

“We breathed a sigh of relief when the Biden administration took the reins because it does not use language to demonize and dehumanize immigrants. [that Trump did] but we have to deliver,” Rep. Chuy Garcia (D-Ill.) said.

Garcia added that it was disappointing to see some of his fellow Senate Democrats « backtracking on their campaign promises by changing course on policies like Title 42. »

Part of the challenge, according to lawmakers and Democratic aides, is that they don’t all have the same views on how to approach immigration policy, especially when it comes to migrants arriving at the border. southern United States.

« I think some of the moderate Democrats understand the importance of Title 42, but there are people on the far left who surely don’t agree with that and that’s where the conflict comes in, » said Rep. Henry Cuellar, a Texas moderate. frontier Democrat who narrowly beat a progressive in a primary runoff.

Cuellar said he supports maintaining both « Stay in Mexico » and Title 42 « as long as we keep these migrants safe, » a view that puts him at odds with many in his party. . However, since the start of the program there have been numerous reports of kidnappings, violence and sexual assaults as migrants wait in border towns for their hearings.

Supporters have expressed frustration with the administration and Democrats for not being more proactive in addressing Republican posts, which have largely portrayed the border as chaos and opposed offering protections to immigrants without papers.

“You have a Republican Party that constantly hammers the administration and Democrats on immigration,” Gonzales said. « Unfortunately, you have a lot of silence when it comes to Democrats on this issue. It’s not a good strategy – and we’re running out of time as we get closer and closer to November.


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