US Supreme Court Strikes Down “Stay in Mexico” Program

The bridge from Ciudad Juarez to El Paso

The measure was reinstated last December. Since then, 62% of the returnees were Nicaraguans asylum seekers.

By EFE / Confidencial

HAVANA TIMES – The US Supreme Court on Thursday authorized President Joe Biden to abolish the “Stay in Mexico” program, an immigration policy instituted by his predecessor, Donald Trump, which forces asylum seekers to wait for their case to be resolved outside US territory.

On his first day in the White House a year and a half ago, Biden tried to end this program, but a federal judge in Texas ordered its reinstatement and the Government appealed to the Supreme Court, which has ruled in its favor, considering that the decision does not violate the law.

The highest US court did not assess Trump’s immigration policy, officially known as the Migrant Protection Protocols, but rather the legality of Biden’s decision to end the program.

With five votes in favor and four against, Supreme Court justices ruled that the memorandum issued in October last year by the Government to end “Stay in Mexico” did not violate federal immigration law.

As part of his zero-tolerance policy towards migrants, Trump instituted the program in 2019, a widely criticized policy by human rights organizations, which affected more than 60,000 asylum requests, most of whom were stranded in camps on the Mexican border.

Biden tried to rescind this policy last year but faced opposition from the attorney generals of Texas and Missouri, who succeeded in getting a federal judge in Texas to order the reinstatement of Stay in Mexico. In August, a federal appeals court and the Supreme Court rejected the government’s efforts to block the Texas judge’s ruling.

In October, Secretary of Homeland Security, Alejandro Mayorkas, issued a memorandum through which he again revoked “Stay in Mexico,” but the Executive had to reactivate the program after another court ruling.

After negotiations with the Mexican Government, the United States reactivated the program in December of last year.

62% of returnees are Nicaraguans

From December 2021 —when the program was reinstated— until April 2022, more than 3,000 Nicaraguan asylum seekers in the United States were sent back to Mexico, that is 62% of a total of 5,014 people, followed by Cubans (15%) and Colombians (7%).

Asylum seekers under the policy were required to stay in Mexican border cities such as Ciudad Juarez, neighboring El Paso, one of the four US sectors in which the program was implemented.

A Confidencial team visited Juarez in 2021 and interviewed several Nicaraguans who remained in that city until US authorities ruled on their cases. All feared for their security, because they were in one of the most violent cities in the world and in a country in which migrants are frequently victims of kidnappings, assault, and murder.

It is yet not known as of what date the elimination of the policy will become effective. However, migrants arriving at the US border will continue to be subject to other immigration policies to prevent their entry into the country, such as Title 42, used since the onset of the coronavirus pandemic in 2020.

Title 42 is a public health regulation that allows the US government to prevent entry of people during public health emergencies. The Biden Administration has tried to eliminate the use of this statute to turn away migrants, but it remains in effect by a Louisiana judge’s decision made public in May. These are not deportations, but rather quasi-express rejections, after which migrants end up back in Mexico or are sent by plane to their country of origin.

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