Starting Wednesday, the Biden administration will let asylum seekers whose cases were closed under the Trump-era "Remain in Mexico" policy return to the U.S. to restart proceedings.
More than 30,000 migrants could be eligible to pursue their asylum claims, the Los Angeles Times reports. The Remain in Mexico policy, first implemented in January 2019, returned some asylum back across the southern border to Mexico to wait for their asylum hearing in the U.S. Many were unable to get back to the U.S. for their hearings, and their cases were closed.
President Biden froze the Remain in Mexico policy on his first day in office, and the United Nations refugee agency says that since February, the administration has let about 12,000 asylum seekers with pending Remain in Mexico cases into the U.S. In a statement Tuesday, the Department of Homeland Security said as "part of our continued effort to restore safe, orderly, and humane processing" at the southern border, it will "expand the pool" of asylum seekers, including those "who had their cases terminated or were ordered removed in absentia."
Between January 2019 and January 2021, about 70,000 migrants were ordered to wait in Mexico, forced to settle in dangerous border towns, including some that are run by drug cartels. Human Rights First says that among those asylum seekers, there have been at least 1,544 reported cases of murder, rape, torture, abduction, and violent assault. Officials and immigration activists estimate that thousands gave up on ever being granted asylum, and hundreds sent their children back across the border, thinking they would have a chance to stay in the U.S. because they were unaccompanied minors.
Even with the Remain in Mexico policy paused, some asylum seekers are still being sent to Mexico due to the coronavirus. Under Title 42, a 1944 public health law, hundreds of thousands of migrants have been moved to Mexico during the pandemic. "Having Title 42 still in place at the same time that the administration is claiming to try and fix cases in Remain in Mexico presents the administration with a fundamental contradiction between what they claim to be doing and the way that border control is actually working on the ground," Syracuse University's Austin Kocher told the Times.