The Biden administration on Friday moved again to end the Trump-era "Remain in Mexico" policy, even as it is reimplementing it in response to a court order — and admitted that it "likely" contributed to reduced illegal migration at the southern border.
Homeland Security Secretary Alejandro Mayorkas said in a memo that the benefits of the program, officially called the Migrant Protection Protocols (MPP) "are far outweighed by the costs of continuing to use the program on a programmatic basis, in whatever form" and that he is terminating the program.
The policy, officially called the Migrant Protection Protocols, was set up and expanded in 2019 and saw migrants sent back to Mexico as they awaited their hearings. It was the cornerstone of the Trump administration’s efforts to end the practice of "catch-and-release" by which migrants were released into the interior after being apprehended.
Proponents said it was a dramatically effective program that both kept illegal immigrants out of the country and reduced the "pull factors" drawing migrants north. Critics said it was a cruel policy that resulted in migrants camping in squalid conditions and being put at risk of kidnapping and violence.
The Biden administration began unraveling the program earlier this year and officially ended it in June. But a federal court order ordered it to be reinstated after Texas and Missouri sued, claiming that the administration had not conducted a required analysis of the policy before scrapping it.
In the memo, Mayorkas said that while it is still complying with the court order, he has conducted an analysis on whether the program should be kept, modified, or abandoned -- as well as claims that the court said were not sufficiently addressed, like the program’s effect on border crossings.
He says in the memo that he has determined that MPP "should be terminated," even as he accepted that it reduced border crossings
"In reaching this conclusion, I recognize that MPP likely contributed to reduced migratory flows. But it did so by imposing substantial and unjustifiable human costs on the individuals who were exposed to harm while waiting in Mexico," he said.
He said that the administration is instead pursuing policies "that disincentivize irregular migration while incentivizing safe, orderly and humane pathways" and claimed that those policies "once fully implemented...will address migratory flows as effectively, in fact more effectively, while holding to our nation’s values."
He concludes the memo by saying that DHS will continue complying with the court injunction to reimplement MPP, but that the termination of the program will be implemented "as soon as practicable after a final judicial decision to vacate the Texas injunction."
The memo comes as the Biden administration is still enveloped in a massive border crisis that has overwhelmed authorities at the border and caused a significant political headache for the new administration.
There were more than 192,000 migrant encounters in September, taking the total for FY 2021 over the 1.7 million mark. Republicans have blamed the Biden rollback of a number of Trump-era policies, but the Biden administration has instead blamed "root causes" like poverty and violence in Central America.