The Trump administration’s “Remain in Mexico” policy has done exactly what officials had hoped — convince illegal immigrants with bogus asylum claims to give up and return home, officials said this week, declaring the controversial policy a success.
Of the 55,000 migrants who were subject to the Migrant Protection Protocols, as the program is officially known, a “small subset” have won their cases and been readmitted to the U.S. to proceed with asylum claims.
Another 20,000 are still waiting in northern Mexico, Homeland Security officials believe. But that leaves tens of thousands who are believed to have given up their claims.
Just as important are the would-be migrants that have not made the trip in the first place, Homeland Security said, cutting the number of illegal immigrant families nabbed at the U.S.-Mexico border by 80% from its record high in May.
The program is also more fair to the migrants, Homeland Security argues, since they can get a final hearing and learn their fate within a few months, rather than the yearslong backlog for those stuck in the U.S. immigration courts.
Homeland Security’s new memo was released Monday, as the department announced it was expanding the MPP to a new location in Eagle Pass, Texas, where it says the U.S. and Mexico now have the capacity to return would-be asylum seekers.
“We have already seen individuals granted asylum, and many more fraudulent or non-meritorious cases closed,” said acting Secretary Kevin McAleenan.
Under the program, would-be asylum seekers wait in Mexico for their cases to be heard. If they are granted protection or relief, they are allowed into the U.S. to pursue their claim. But most do not pass the initial screen or give up their claims on their own.
Under the old system, they’d already been allowed to enter the U.S. and roamed free, with few of them returning to be deported when the time came.
Now they are denied that foothold and only allowed entry after they pass the first asylum hurdles.
The program applies to non-Mexicans who travel through Mexico to reach the U.S.
The theory behind the program is that if someone from a country other than Mexico travels through Mexico, they could claim asylum there, and their continued journey to the U.S. suggests they are more properly regular illegal immigrants seeking jobs or to reunite with families. Neither of those is considered a reason for asylum under the law.
MPP has drawn fierce criticism from immigrant-rights activists who say the policy has created dangerous conditions in northern Mexico, with migrant camps making easy prey for criminals.
Activists have filed several lawsuits, drawing federal judges into the fray, and they are scrutinizing the policy.
Several judges have indicated the policy may need to have more protections for those who, despite coming from other countries, still fear being left in Mexico.
In its new memo, Homeland Security said the MPP is part of a hemisphere-wide policy that’s drawn strong cooperation from Mexico and key Central American countries.
“Therefore, disruption of MPP would adversely impact U.S. foreign relations—along with the U.S. government’s ability to effectively address the border security and humanitarian crisis that constitutes an ongoing national emergency,” the department said.