Biden’s Immigration Problem: How To End ‘Remain in Mexico’

Officers at the port of entry between the U.S. and Mexico on Aug. 23, 2019 (Photo by Jinitzail Hernández/CQ Roll Call)

The program is one of many Trump policies that the president-elect has promised to unravel

Nearly 25,000 asylum-seeking migrants are currently stranded in Mexico, waiting for U.S. court dates that may be more than a year away. President-elect Joe Biden has pledged to unravel many of the Trump administration immigration policies that have created situations like this.

But how easy will that be?

The Supreme Court agreed to address the legality of the so-called Remain in Mexico program, unless the incoming administration ends it first. But Biden has yet to provide details on how he plans to dismantle the program formally known as Migration Protection Protocols, or MPP. The program’s complexities present problems for both the U.S. and Mexico, making a quick-fix difficult.

On Friday, the Biden transition team told CQ Roll Call the incoming administration “will establish a fair and orderly process that expands avenues for migrants to apply for protection and resettlement.” Without providing specifics, it admitted that “implementing this new approach will require time.”

Among other things, the Biden administration would have to address a backlog of more than 1.2 million immigration court cases, which include MPP. That would mean hiring more immigration judges to ease the overwhelming case load each judge now faces, said Adam Isacson, who works on border security for the advocacy group Washington Office on Latin America.

“Right now we’ve got about 520 judges, and we may need triple that, or at least double it, in order to really reduce the wait time between when you get processed and when you get a decision,” Isacson said.

[Asylum seekers could ‘Remain in Mexico’ for years amid pandemic]

But hiring more immigration judges puts the Biden administration at the whim of Congress and its purse strings to increase funding for the Executive Office for Immigration Review, the Justice Department agency that oversees the immigration court system. Neither the Trump administration’s Fiscal 2021 budget request nor the package of appropriation bills now being weighed in the Senate include additional funding for more immigration judges.

By Camila DeChalus for ROLLCALL.COM
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