The Southern Poverty Law Center (SPLC) issued a statement condemning the Biden administration’s planned reimplementation of the “Remain in Mexico” policy, pointing out that the action is illegal, inhumane and inconsistent with the president’s promises.
On Monday, US officials plan to restart the “Remain in Mexico” policy, which was began by Republican Donald Trump, at a single port of entry on the southern border before it’s expanded elsewhere.
Biden officials have publicly stressed they oppose the policy the White House is expanding it. Under Trump, only Spanish-speaking people were expelled but Biden’s administration says anyone from the Western Hemisphere other than Mexico may be sent back across the southern border to wait for American border authorities to process their claims.
Under the Trump administration’s cruel plan to deter immigration at the southern border, more than 60,000 asylum-seekers were sent back to Mexico, where they faced rape, kidnappings, and murder, according to human rights groups that documented those problems.
“This is the first president in the history of the United States of America that [said] anybody seeking asylum has to do it in another country,” said Biden during his campaign against Trump. “That’s never happened before in America. … They’re sitting in squalor on the other side of the river.”
“The Trump administration created ‘Remain in Mexico’ to deprive those seeking asylum of access to safety, basic human needs, and legal assistance and thereby ensure that their claims were denied,” said Melissa Crow, senior supervising attorney with the SPLC’s Immigrant Justice Project. “Despite the Biden administration’s purported efforts to have addressed certain ‘humanitarian concerns about the previous implementation’ of the policy, this iteration contains few differences from that imposed during the Trump era.”
Two weeks after the government returned the first person under the Remain in Mexico policy on Jan. 29, 2019, the SPLC, in partnership with the ACLU and the Center for Gender and Refugee Studies, filed a lawsuit, Innovation Law Lab v. Wolf, challenging the legality of the policy on behalf of affected asylum seekers and six legal service providers.
In October 2020, the SPLC, in partnership with Innovation Law Lab, the National Immigration Project of the National Lawyers Guild, and pro bono partner Arnold & Porter LLP, filed an additional lawsuit, Immigrant Defenders w. Wolf, challenging the implementation of the Remain in Mexico policy.
That lawsuit alleged that by trapping asylum seekers in dangerous zones in Mexico, the policy deprived thousands of asylum seekers of access to legal assistance and other tools needed to meaningfully present their claims.
Department of Homeland Security officials will also apply on all of those who are eligible Title 42, a public health order that allows for quick deportations as a result of the pandemic.
“The Biden administration is going beyond what could be called a good-faith implementation of the court order,” said Lisa McCormick, a New Jersey human rights advocate.
The SPLC and its partners say they will continue to fight this illegal and inhumane policy.