The Supreme Court took up President Joe Biden's attempts to shut down a Trump administration program that restricts immigration at the southern border.
The justices will hear arguments on whether the Biden administration acted properly in trying to end the stay in Mexico policy, formally known as the Migrant Protection Protocols. It requires people seeking asylum at the southern border to wait for their claims to be decided in Mexico, mainly from Central and South America.
From January 19 to January 2019 until Biden suspended the program, nearly 70,000 people were transported back to Mexico. Tent cities sprang up in Mexico near border-entry stations, and human rights groups said hundreds of asylum-seekers were kidnapped, raped, tortured and assaulted while waiting to get into the U.S.
Biden tried to end the program immediately after taking office. He cited the difficulty immigrants faced in getting help from lawyers in the U.S. and the complications it caused in America s foreign policy dealings with Mexico as well as the dangerous conditions along the border.
He quickly shut it down, but Texas and Mississippi sued. They said the Trump-era program has reduced the number of immigrants at the border, reducing the number of immigrants from El Salvador, Guatemala and Honduras by 80 percent. A federal district court judge in Texas ordered the administration to reimpose the program, and an appeals court and the U.S. Supreme Court refused to block the ruling, so the program was put back in force.
The trial judge said the Biden Department of Homeland SecurityBiden Department of Homeland Security did not offer a sufficiently detailed explanation for why it wanted to abandon the policy. He said federal law requires the government to send asylum-seekers back to Mexico if there is no room to detain them and if they can't wait for their claims to be evaluated in the U.S.
The Justice Department said that the law gives the government the power to return immigrants to Mexico to wait or, if they were not present a danger, on a case-by-case basis. There just isn't enough room, given limited funds provided by Congress, to detain them all, government lawyers said.
The federal government has exercised its discretion to decide how best to allocate limited resources by prioritizing which non-citizens to take into custody and remove, they told the justices.
As the court considers the future of the program, another move by the Biden administration to end a Trump-era immigration restriction is generating headlines and concern from Congress. The Biden administration is considering a plan to lift a public health order that prevented migrants and asylum seekers from entering the U.S. because of concerns about Covid.
The Trump-era public health order was put in place in early 2020 and prevented migrants and asylum-seekers from crossing the border into the U.S. because of the pandemic. The Centers for Disease Control and Prevention said in early April that it was no longer necessary to safeguard public health.
If the Supreme Court rules by late June on the stay-in-Mexico policy, a new round of court battles over relaxing the border restriction is going to follow.