The Biden administration is reportedly mulling creating a more lenient version of the Trump-era Remain in Mexico policy for asylum seekers that the Supreme Court upheld last month.
The plan would allow a smaller number of immigrants seeking asylum to wait in Mexico as their cases are being processed in the courts — and provide them with better living conditions and access to lawyers, Politico reported on Monday.
The White House is discussing the change in policy, which some are calling “Remain in Mexico lite,” with Mexico to ensure that it conforms with the Supreme Court’s ruling and still holds true to President Biden’s campaign pledge to end the “inhumane” program, which he tried to do after taking office on Jan. 20.
The Supreme Court upheld a federal judge’s order requiring the policy — known formally as the Migrant Protection Protocols program — to be reinstated.
Ditching the Remain in Mexico program was one of several Trump administration immigration policies that Biden reversed or rolled back in the early days of his administration — and that critics contend acted as a welcome invitation to migrants from Mexico and Central American countries to travel to the US.
There have been more than 1 million illegal border crossings this year, breaking records month over month.
The chance that the Remain in Mexico policy could be revived has some immigration advocates angry at Biden for going back on his word to make the process more humane.
“One of his campaign promises was to end MPP. He did that. He should stand by that,” Marielena Hincapié, executive director of National Immigration Law Center, told Politico. “The answer is not to simply find a gentler, kinder MPP 2.0. That completely flies in the face of his promise.”
But some inside the administration, according to the New York Times, see the Supreme Court’s decision as providing political cover for Biden to alter his predecessor’s immigration policy without angering Democrats who railed against former President Donald Trump’s programs.
Biden officials also worried about the implications the border crisis would have on midterm elections next fall.
“They are backed into a corner on their broader immigration agenda,” Doris Meissner, the commissioner of the Immigration and Naturalization Service from 1993 to 2000, told the Times. “The only tools that are available in the near term are pretty much pure enforcement.”
The Department of Homeland Security said it disagrees with the court’s ruling and will appeal it.
“As the appeal process continues, however, DHS will comply with the order in good faith,” it said in a statement.
”DHS remains committed to building a safe, orderly, and humane immigration system that upholds our laws and values,” it added.
The swings in immigration policy have left migrants unsure of what to expect.
“The most frustrating part of the last eight months has been just the constantly changing policies and situations on the border, particularly for the asylum seekers because they’re on the other side thinking that … ‘if we wait, Biden is going to eventually open up the ports of entry and allow us in,’” Robyn Barnard, senior advocacy counsel for refugee protection at Human Rights First, told Politico.