Like the court filing and reports note, the policy’s resurrection is contingent on Mexico giving the green light, and Mexico has raised numerous issues it wants to see the U.S. address. “Mexico wants cases to generally conclude within six months and ensure that asylum-seekers have timely and accurate information about hearing dates and times and better access to legal counsel,” the Associated Press (AP) reported. “Mexico also wants exemptions for ‘particularly vulnerable populations’ and better coordination on locations and times of day that asylum-seekers are returned to Mexico.”
But—and please pardon my crudeness—this is like trying to change the condiments on a shit sandwich. No matter what you put on it—Grey Poupon, Gulden’s, some classic French’s—it’s still going to be a shit sandwich. Remain in Mexico was implemented by the prior administration with one goal in mind, and that was to hurt asylum-seekers. It carried out that vision with horrifying efficiency.
“The horrors of MPP are well-documented,” lawmakers led by El Paso Rep. Veronica Escobar and New Jersey Sen. Robert Menendez told the administration in September. “During its implementation from January 2019 to early 2021, non-profit groups tracked over 1,500 public reports of rape, kidnapping, torture, trafficking, and other crimes carried out against asylum seekers and migrants sent back to Mexico under the policy.” They said it’s “abundantly clear that the United States cannot safely reinstate MPP and that any attempt to return people seeking safety to harm in Mexico will violate U.S. and international legal obligations to refugees.”
Here’s one example of how this policy stomped on the asylum rights of vulnerable people: “To show it is complying with the court order, the administration said it is hiring contractors to rebuild tent courts in Laredo and Brownsville, Texas, where asylum-seekers returned to Mexico would attend hearings on their petitions for U.S. refuge,” the AP said. But when they were operational under the previous administration, these tent proceedings were widely criticized as kangaroo courts and sham justice.
Many asylum seekers had to plead their case to a judge appearing via video conference, 150 miles away—that is, if they could even make it to court. “Trump’s asylum policies sent him back to Mexico. He was kidnapped 5 hours later by a cartel,” VICE reported in 2019. When the previous administration then gladly used the pandemic as an excuse to further delay court dates, the private contractor paid to maintain the tent courts still made tens of millions of dollars off the empty structures. The previous administration itself admitted the policy was dangerous in stunning audio obtained by CNN.
“Reimplementation is not something that the administration has wanted to do,” a Biden administration official said according to CBS News. “We are doubling down on the affirmation of our decision to terminate MPP. But in the interim, we are under this obligation of the court. And making sure that individuals, when they are returned to Mexico, are treated humanely is of course one of the highest priorities.” Following the Supreme Court’s outrageous shadow docket order siding with the lower court order that’s forcing Remain in Mexico’s reinstatement, the Biden administration did say in late September that it would again move to try to end the policy. But that memo’s current status is unlcear.
“We’ve said it once. We’ll say it a thousand times more. Remain in Mexico was a cruel & horrific policy that caused immense human suffering,” Human Rights First said. “The Biden admin should issue a memo re-terminating it immediately.” Remain in Mexico “is rotten to its core,” said the Center for Gender & Refugee Studies. “There is no safe or lawful way to implement it.” The American Immigration Council said the policy “was a legal and humanitarian disaster. Unrealistic standards and no regulations made obtaining asylum virtually impossible.”