President Joe Biden’s administration said it had no choice but to reimpose President Donald Trump’s “Remain in Mexico” policy Thursday, explaining that the change was “not our preference.”
White House press secretary Jen Psaki defended the Biden administration’s actions during Monday’s White House press briefing. While the White House has stated that it added measures to the Trump-era policy in an effort to make it more “humane,” activists have argued the measures are an “empty promise.” Reporters pressed Psaki on the topic Monday.
“Immigrant rights activists say that the idea that the United States government is going to be able to facilitate lawyers for migrants who want them is an empty promise. What can you say to assure those people that, in fact, you’ll live by that commitment?” a reporter asked. (RELATED: Mexico Commits To Deporting Migrants To Their Home Countries)
“I would say first to all of these people that it is not our preference to be reimplementing and reinstituting the Migrant Protection Protocol,” Psaki said. “We are doing that because of a court order and a legal requirement to do so. We have put in place a number of changes from the Department of Homeland Security (DHS) to improve some humanitarian components, but we still fell that the program is inefficient, inhumane and we did not eagerly reimplement it.”
“Remain in Mexico” requires asylum seekers to remain in their countries of origin throughout the asylum application process until their U.S. court date. Trump first implemented the policy in 2019, and Biden vowed on the campaign trail to dismantle it once he was in office. DHS Secretary Alejandro Mayorkas terminated the policy in June, and Biden had already suspended it on his first day in office.
Donald Trump’s “Remain in Mexico” policy is dangerous, inhumane, and goes against everything we stand for as a nation of immigrants. My administration will end it. https://t.co/toYzMaPP1Y
— Joe Biden (@JoeBiden) March 12, 2020
A federal judge in Texas overruled Mayorkas’ termination of the policy over the summer, ordering the Biden administration to reinstate the policy. After doing so, the Biden administration then took another crack at ending it in late October, only to reimpose a version of it Thursday. (RELATED: Mexico Commits To Deporting Migrants To Their Home Countries)
The new policy makes various changes to the Trump-era version, most notably that every asylum seeker will be offered a COVID-19 vaccination, though the administration claims it cannot mandate the vaccine. The new version also ensures that asylum seekers will have access to legal counsel throughout the application, and seeks to limit application proceedings to six months, according to CNBC.