The Supreme Court ruled Thursday that the Biden administration could end the “stay in Mexico” program, but life would change greatly for asylum seekers waiting in Tijuana for their US immigration court cases. Not likely – at least for the foreseeable future.
ruling Led the celebration of many advocates who have long pushed for an end to the controversial program officially known as the Migrant Protection Protocol, or MPP. But it’s not yet clear what the decision will mean for those enrolled in the program.
“The laws of the United States keep changing,” said Nicaraguan asylum seeker Aden, speaking in Spanish. “We don’t know whether they will kick us out of here. This news creates more uncertainty than anything.”
He asked to be identified only by his first name because he has yet to receive protection from his government, which is known to persecute those opposed to its strongman leader, Daniel Ortega.
Aden recalled feelings of confusion about what the court’s decision could mean as news swept through the Tijuana shelter where he had been awaiting his US asylum case for the past six months.
He questioned whether he should believe the reports as well.
Once the San Diego Union-Tribune confirmed the news was true, he was hesitant to show any optimism. As far as he is concerned, he is still in limbo.
In 2019 San Diego began living in Mexico under the Trump administration. President Biden campaigned on a platform to end the program, and his administration went on to do so in early 2021. But after a federal judge in a Texas and Missouri trial ruled that the program would have to continue, the Biden administration renegotiated it late last year and expanded what is eligible.
It was a federal judge’s decision that the Supreme Court overturned, sending the case back to district court.
The uncertainty following the decision echoed hours later in San Diego’s immigration courts.
“Should we still have this hearing today?” Judge Katherine Holiday-Roberts asked a public prosecutor on Thursday afternoon.
The attorney, Michael Sullivan, told him that the guidance he has received from the Department of Homeland Security is to proceed as normal, that the program still exists, at least for now. He pointed out that the Supreme Court did not rule that the program was not allowed to exist, just that DHS has the discretion to decide whether to use it or not.
As the two courtrooms ended, a similar exchange took place between Judge Olga Attia and public prosecutor Jonathan Grant.
“I can’t understand what’s going to happen. I don’t know,” Grant told the judge. “It’s up to the administration to decide whether they want to end the program altogether.”
Later on Thursday, DHS officials said in a statement that they welcomed the decision and would continue “efforts to end the program as quickly as legally permitted”.
Aden is one of more than 7,250 asylum seekers who were deported south of the border after requesting protection in the United States between December 2021 and May 2022. information from DHS. About 1,750 of them, like Aden, had returned to Tijuana.
Although the program technically applies to any country in the Western Hemisphere except Mexico, there are mainly those returned from Colombia, Cuba, Ecuador, Nicaragua and Venezuela. That’s because Guatemalans, Hondurans and Salvadorans – other groups that have made a large number of asylum requests in recent history – are typically deported back to Mexico under another policy continuing from the Trump era, known as Title 42. known as. This policy instructs border officials to block asylum seekers. from reaching American soil and for expelling them to Mexico or their home countries if they cross in any way.
The Biden administration has said it prioritizes expelling those it can under Title 42, which began under the pandemic and which officials have argued was necessary to slow the spread of COVID-19. . Because the logistics of expulsion varies by nationality, it has ended the application of the MPP to nationalities that have been found to be more difficult to repatriate under Title 42.
A federal judge has now blocked the administration from abolishing Title 42 as well.
Since returning to Tijuana under the MPP, Aidan has crossed the border three times for hearings in San Diego’s Immigration Court downtown. Each time, immigration officers took her back to the bus and back to the border, where she was taken back to the shelter. His fourth hearing is to be held in July.
While he is grateful for the care provided by the shelter staff, he does not feel safe there, he said.
He said he was robbed twice by the Tijuana police.
In the first iteration of the MPP, Human Rights First documented more than 1,500 cases of attacks on asylum seekers in Mexico under the program. Although the Biden administration has made some changes to deal with the threats facing migrants in northern Mexico, a report good Cases of MPP returns being hijacked in recent months came to light in June.
“Since the policy’s inception, we have witnessed and recorded the horrific toll it has taken on its victims,” said Eleanor Acer, senior director of refugee protection for Human Rights First. “The Department of Homeland Security must now act swiftly to end this humanitarian nuisance and bring its victims to safety.”
Advocates pushing for an end to the program plan to set up flowers at Balboa Park on Thursday evening to honor those who have been harmed by the program.
He said Aidan’s case has been postponed for now to give him time to find a lawyer, but he hasn’t found one. They think it will be much easier to get legal aid from inside the United States.
The legal representation rate of migrants in MPP is extremely low. Having a lawyer can have a significant impact on the outcome of a case.
If the Biden administration remains in Mexico and allows Aidan to conclude his case from within the United States, he plans to join his mother, sister and nephew in Miami. They also fled because they were targeted, but they crossed the US-Mexico border first and were allowed in to pursue asylum claims.
He said that he tries not to talk too much with them because he doesn’t want to worry about them.
And, despite his reservations about whether the Biden administration will actually let him move to the United States, he thinks it will make a big difference in his life.
“It would mean being able to fight for asylum,” he said. “It will make things more possible. I can get a lawyer to represent me, and I’ll be with my family. I’ll be more comfortable.”