Homeland Security Secretary Alejandro Mayorkas issued a new memo Friday seeking to cancel the Trump-era “Remain in Mexico” border policy that helped solve the previous migrant surge.
The move comes even as Mr. Mayorkas is trying to restart the program under a federal judge’s injunction.
In a lengthy memo, the Department of Homeland Security said the U.S. cannot assure the safety of people it pushes back across the border under the policy, officially known as the Migrant Protection Protocols, and the government doesn’t want to spend the money needed to improve conditions in Mexico.
The alternative is to let them into the U.S. to live and work while their immigration cases proceed.
“MPP had endemic flaws, imposed unjustifiable human costs, pulled resources and personnel away from other priority efforts, and did not address the root causes of irregular migration,” Mr. Mayorkas said. “MPP not only undercuts the administration’s ability to implement critically needed and foundational changes to the immigration system, it fails to provide the fair process and humanitarian protections that individuals deserve under the law.”
The memo won’t take effect unless the judge lifts his injunction.
Under MPP, immigrants who crossed the border illegally and said they wanted to claim asylum were returned to Mexico to wait for their case hearings.
The goal was to discourage people with questionable or bogus claims, who had figured out that they could make their claims and gain a foothold in the U.S. while waiting years for their cases to be heard. Making them wait in Mexico erased the incentive to make bogus claims.
But immigrant-rights groups said some legitimate asylum-seekers were pushed back and faced kidnappings, robberies and other abuse while waiting in Mexico.
The Biden administration had halted MPP early in its tenure, and Mr. Mayorkas issued a memo in the spring attempting to cancel it altogether. But a federal judge in Texas ruled he cut too many corners.
In particular, the judge said Homeland Security in the Trump years had conducted a review of the program and found it to be a critical border tool. Canceling the program required more than Mr. Mayorkas‘ cursory dismissal of those findings, the judge said.
The judge ordered the program restarted, and the Biden team says it is negotiating with Mexico to do that — even as it works to undermine the program legally.
The new memo canceling the program runs to 39 pages of justification, arguing MPP is a misuse of resources at a time when the Biden team is trying to erase most of the Trump immigration legacy.
Mr. Mayorkas has promised a new system that he said will erase the incentives for illegal immigration while protecting legitimate asylum cases.