Joe Biden was forced on Thursday to resume the Trump-era Remain in Mexico policy as migrants head north for the border and GOP lawmakers introduce legislation to stop the White House from paying out migrant families separated under the previous administration.
The Department of Homeland Security said Thursday it is acting to comply with a court order in reimplementing the Migrant Protection Protocols (MPP), which requires asylum-seekers who made it to the border by way of Mexico to remain in the country as they await U.S. court proceedings related to their claim.
DHS said that Secretary Alejandro Mayorkas believes the policy 'has endemic flaws, imposed unjustifiable human costs, pulled resources and personnel away from other priority efforts, and failed to address the root causes of irregular migration.'
White House Press Secretary Jen Psaki described the program on Thursday as 'Deeply flawed.'
'We're working to implement [it] under the court order,' she added.
Senators John Cornyn of Texas, Tom Cotton of Arkansas Thom Tillis of North Carolina and Senate Minority Leader Mitch McConnell of Kentucky introduced legislation Thursday to stop Biden from doling out fat $450,000 checks for each illegal immigrant separated under the Trump administration.
Reports emerged last month that the president was considering massive payments to migrants who were part of a family unit and are suing the government after they were separated when being taken into custody while Trump was president.
Since the payments would be per person, according to the report, some illegal migrant families could see payments in the millions if it were carried out.
Biden called the reports 'garbage' when asked about them in November, but later defended the planned payments while still disputed the $450,000 figure.
The Protect American Taxpayer Dollars from Illegal Immigration Act declares 'no Federal funds… may be expended for any legal settlement to any individual who violated section 275(a) of the Immigration and Nationality Act if the claims giving rise to such settlement are based on the lawful detention of such individual as part of a family unit after entry at a port of entry or between ports of entry along the southern border of the United States after January 20, 2017.'
This would include any use of money from the Judgment Fund, which pays for court judgments and lawsuit settlements against the federal government.
Joe Biden was forced by courts to restart the so-called Remain in Mexico program on Thursday that he once called 'inhumane'. The president returns the White House on December 2
Migrants wait on Thursday, December 2 to obtain visas to transit Mexico as they make their way north to seek asylum in the U.S.
The program restarts as an influx of migrants head to the border. Here a child drinks as migrants wait to receive help from the Mexican government in Tapachula, Mexico on Thursday
Reports emerged last month that Biden is considering paying each illegal immigrant who was separated from their family when being taken into custody between January 2017-January 2020 a $450,000 check. Migrants wait in Tapachula, Mexico on Thursday, December 2 to obtain humanitarian visas to transit through Mexican territory
Tillis wrote in a statement regarding the bill: 'Our southern border is a disaster, and President Biden's failed policies have continued to fuel this ongoing crisis. We are seeing the most illegal immigration this year alone than ever recorded, and now President Biden wants to give illegal immigrants a payout, further rewarding lawlessness and chaos.'
'These $450,000 settlements are an insult to all hardworking Americans who will subsequently be funding these large settlements with their hard-earned tax dollars,' he added.
'I am proud to work with my colleagues to make sure this doesn't happen.'
Biden is being forced to restart the Trump-era Remain in Mexico asylum policy. This forces migrants who come from South and Central American countries to the U.S. border by way of Mexico to remain there while awaiting results of their asylum claims.
The Biden administration reluctantly announced plans Thursday to accept the policy and agreed to Mexico´s conditions for resuming it.
Biden scrapped the Remain in Mexico policy, but a lawsuit by Texas and Missouri forced him to put it back into effect, subject to Mexico's acceptance.
Under Biden's new policy migrants will once again be sent back to Mexico as they await immigration hearings.
The major difference is that they will be offered a COVID vaccination, but they cannot be forced to accept it. Biden's policy is likely to anger progressive members of his party - including the so-called 'Squad' of four outspoken female representatives, but it could play well with more centrist Democrats who have concerns about uncontrolled immigration into the US.
Officials in the United States are planning to initially use the MPP program primarily for single adult asylum seekers, who account for the majority of illegal border crossings, according to one official who spoke to The Washington Post.
Migrant children wait with their families in Tapachula, Mexico on December 2 to obtain help from the Mexican government
Senate Minority Leader Mitch McConnell of Kentucky (top left) and Senators Thom Tillis of North Carolina (top right), John Cornyn of Texas (bottom left) and Tom Cotton of Arkansas (bottom right) proposed legislation on Thursday that would prevent the federal government from paying out illegal immigrants who were separated from their families under the Trump administration
Mexico is willing to accept asylum seekers from Spanish-speaking countries, as with the previous version of the program, the person said. Whether Mexico would accept Haitians - who have surged in numbers in recent months, as the country implodes - was still being debated.
Biden, on taking the White House, immediately ended the Migrant Protection Protocols (MPP), as the policy is formally known.
His predecessor had implemented the scheme in January 2019, and it faced multiple legal challenges from critics who said that turning asylum seekers away breached international law.
Yet supporters of the policy argued that it was a sensible way to deal with those waiting to have their cases heard in overwhelmed U.S. immigration courts, and admitted that it also served as a deterrent to illegal crossings.
When Biden assumed office, migrant numbers surged, with many openly stating that they'd been emboldened to attempt to enter the U.S. illegally because they felt the new president would be more sympathetic than Trump.
Under Donald Trump, from January 2019 to January 2020 approximately 60,000 migrants were forced to wait in Mexico while their asylum cases were heard
The number of migrants encountered by Border Patrol along the Mexican border rose to their highest recorded level in fiscal 2021, according to data analyzed last month by Pew.
The Border Patrol reported 1,659,206 encounters with migrants at the U.S.-Mexico border last fiscal year, narrowly exceeding the prior highs of 1,643,679 in 2000 and 1,615,844 in 1986.
Biden is now in the bizarre situation of reintroducing a plan despite his own administration still fighting it in the courts.
In August, U.S. District Judge Matthew Kacsmaryk, sitting in Amarillo, Texas, ruled that the Biden administration violated federal law by ending the Remain in Mexico policy.
The Justice Department appealed to the Supreme Court, and Justice Alito ruled in Biden's favor and allowed the administration to temporarily stop Remain in Mexico.
Four days later, on August 24, the Supreme Court declared that Kacsmaryk's ruling stood, and Biden must reinstate Remain in Mexico.
Biden is seen on November 18 meeting Andres Manuel Lopez Obrador, Mexico's president
Alejandro Mayorkas, the Homeland Security Secretary, in October spoke of his concerns about the program.
'MPP had endemic flaws, imposed unjustifiable human costs, pulled resources and personnel away from other priority efforts, and did not address the root causes of irregular migration,' he said.
'MPP not only undercuts the Administration's ability to implement critically needed and foundational changes to the immigration system, it fails to provide the fair process and humanitarian protections that individuals deserve under the law.'
Mexico has expressed concern about the implementation of the program, releasing a statement last week outlining several 'humanitarian concerns,' including the living conditions of asylum seekers, and their access to legal representation and medical care.
The Trump administration used the MPP program to return more than 60,000 asylum seekers across the border to Mexico.
Human Rights First, a New York-based nonprofit organization, recorded at least 1,544 'violent attacks' against migrants returned to Mexico under the program.