As the Biden administration continues to learn the ropes of administering the government, probably no other department has been so difficult than immigration. Although Biden had a very rocky start in his first year, the sheer number of problems he inherited from the past administration as a result of the heavy-handed policies relating to everything immigration. A good example of this is the ongoing problems with asylum applicants and those seeking to enter the U.S. at the southern border. Probably no-Trump policy was more criticized than the “Remain in Mexico” yet that policy is still current law.
Recently the U.S. Supreme Court was asked to review the prior “Remain in Mexico” ruling. On December 13, 2021, the 5th Circuit Court of Appeals ruled that the federal government is legally required to return migrants to Mexico. After the reimplementation of the Trump-era Migrant Protection Protocols (MPP), commonly referred to as the “Remain in Mexico” program, the Justice Department urged the Supreme Court to reconsider the lower court rulings. Lawyers for the administration argued that the federal appeals court that upheld a Texas federal district judge’s ruling had offered “novel and erroneous interpretations” of immigration and administrative laws in requiring the MPP policy to be revived. No notice has come out yet if the court will hear the case or not.
The “Remain in Mexico” is getting additional attention for those at the San Diego-Tijuana border. On Monday, January 3rd, San Diego became the second U.S. border city where federal officials restarted the “Remain in Mexico” program. San Diego Border Patrol agents may now enroll people in the program that are apprehended while crossing the border. There were no asylum seekers immediately returned to Tijuana, yet the first returns from San Diego to Mexico are likely to happen sometime this week. The first returns did not happen immediately after being apprehended because asylum-seekers who say they are afraid to go back to Mexico have up to 24 hours to consult with attorneys prior to screening interviews, where they must explain that their fear is based on a “reasonable possibility” of harm.
As the fate of the “Remain in Mexico” program continues to be debated, progress has been made in Mexico with the scores of migrants who have been trying to enter the U.S. without permission. The Mexican government recently announced that it disbanded a large makeshift camp with thousands of migrants. The officials dismantled the migrant camp in Tapachula, Mexico and many of the migrants (many families with children) have been living in the prison-like conditions of the camps for months. Before disbanding the camp, roughly 3,000 migrants were granted permission by Mexico’s National Migration Institute (INM) to process their travel documents which would allow them to legally leave the camp and enter Mexican society. INM officials gave migrants a QR code which registers them to complete their “regularization” process. The migrants who leave the camp must then find their own housing and a way to sustain themselves and their families or return to their homes in other parts of central America.
Although most current immigration issues the Biden Administration is facing relates to the southern border and migrants from Central America, immigration problems are not limited to Central America. A big problem Biden has faced resulted from the sudden pull-out of U.S. troops in Afghanistan and the crisis that resulted. Unfortunately, things have not gotten better for the Afghan nationals who assisted the U.S. government over the past 20 years. Recently, hundreds of Afghans were denied humanitarian visas to enter the U.S. Over the last few weeks, federal immigration officials have issued hundreds of denial letters to Afghans seeking temporary entry into the U.S. for humanitarian reasons. Since the U.S. withdrawal from Afghanistan, USCIS has received more than 35,000 applications for humanitarian parole. So far, USCIS has denied about 470 of these applications and conditionally approved more than 140. Although there has been no meaningful assistance to these people, the Biden administration has continued to help evacuate more than 2,200 Afghans since the U.S. military withdrawal.