The Biden administration on Tuesday formally pulled the plug on former President Donald Trump’s “remain in Mexico” policy, which forced tens of thousands of asylum-seekers from Central America to stay south of the U.S. border until their claims were heard.
Homeland Security Secretary Alejandro Mayorkas said he was ending the policy, formally known as the Migration Protection Protocols, in a memo to agency heads after a monthslong review by his office. The Biden administration temporarily halted the program on Jan. 20, its first day in office, pending the review.
“I have determined that MPP does not adequately or sustainably enhance border management in such a way as to justify the program’s extensive operational burdens and other shortfalls. Over the course of the program, border encounters increased during certain periods and decreased during others,” the memo said.
Mayorkas said the policy — which Trump had hailed as an effective tool in securing the southern border and international organizations had criticized as inhumane — had produced “mixed results.”
“It is certainly true that some removal proceedings conducted pursuant to MPP were completed more expeditiously than is typical for non-detained cases, but this came with certain significant drawbacks that are cause for concern,” he wrote.
“The focus on speed was not always matched with sufficient efforts to ensure that conditions in Mexico enabled migrants to attend their immigration proceedings,” he added, noting that a high number of cases were heard in absentia.
While one of the Trump administration’s goals for the policy was to reduce the backlog of asylum cases, “over the course of the program backlogs increased,” Mayorkas wrote.
The policy also didn’t do much to relieve the strain on U.S. personnel patrolling the border — over 25 percent of the 68,000 people who were returned to Mexico were later “reencountered attempting to enter the United States between ports of entry,” Mayorkas wrote.
The memo said that the administration is considering ways to implement long-needed reforms to the U.S. asylum system and that a key part of the reforms involves working with Mexico and Central American countries to stem the number of asylum-seekers while “expanding cooperative efforts to combat smuggling and trafficking networks, and more.”
“I share the belief that we can only manage migration in an effective, responsible, and durable manner if we approach the issue comprehensively, looking well beyond our own borders,” Mayorkas wrote.