Asylum seekers attend a demonstration at the San Ysidro border crossing in Tijuana, Mexico praying and listening to speeches on March 26. Many of the them have been sleeping in tents at El Chaparral plaza in hopes of being able to seek asylum in the United States. File Photo by Ariana Drehsler/UPI | License Photo
June 2 (UPI) -- The Biden administration has formally ended a Donald Trump immigration policy that forced tens of thousands of asylum seekers to await their U.S. court dates in Mexico.
Homeland Security Secretary Alejandro Mayorkas announced the end of the Migrant Protection Protocols in a six-page memo on Tuesday, stating he has determined after a review that the policy does not "adequately or sustainably enhance border management" to justify its existence.
"In making my assessment, 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," he said.
He said the program, which intended to rapidly adjudicate asylum claims, had a focus on speed but did not always make sure conditions in Mexico would enable applicants to attend their immigration hearings in the United States.
The policy was also intended to reduce the burden on border security personnel and resources, but Mayorkas said the program "imposed additional responsibilities that detracted from the department's critically important mission sets."
"Any benefits of maintaining or now modifying MPP are far outweighed by the benefits of terminating the program," he said. "Furthermore, termination is most consistent with the administration's broader policy objective and the department's operational needs."
Implemented in late January 2019 and continuing until President Joe Biden put a halt to it on his first day in office, the policy directed border officials to return some 68,000 people to Mexico.
In early February, Biden signed a series of executive orders, including one directing a review and reform of the controversial policy. That same month, the Department of Homeland Security announced it would start allowing those who had begun immigration proceedings to return to the United States, with some 11,200 re-entering the country between Feb. 19 and May 25.
Republicans met the termination of the policy with swift condemnation as Rep. John Katko, R-N.Y., the lead GOP member of the House Committee on Homeland Security, said it was another signal from the Biden administration that "the U.S. borders are open to illegal immigration."
"This is a very serious mistake," he said in a statement. "The common thread across President Biden's continued actions is unwinding common-sense border security policies while putting our homeland security on the back burner."
Ken Paxton, the Republican attorney general for Texas, criticized the move as "totally irresponsible," saying via Twitter that the program was "very effective in securing our border and keeping TX/USA safe from the ravages of illegal immigration."
Democrats, on the other hand, cheered the Biden administration for rescinding the MPP.
"This policy was a stain on our nation's history and our longstanding tradition of protecting refugees and asylum seekers," Reps. Bennie Thompson, D-Miss., and Nanette Diaz Barragan, D-Calif., said in a joint statement.
Civil rights and immigration advocacy groups, including the American Immigration Council and the American Civil Liberties Union, said that while the move is a step in the right direction, the Biden administration must do more to fully erase the Remain in Mexico policy.
"The work is not done," the ACLU said in a statement. "Now, the Biden administration must ensure that everyone who was subjected to this policy can pursue their asylum claims in the U.S."