US Supreme Court considers ‘Remain in Mexico’ policy dispute

The US Supreme Court is considering President Joe Biden’s bid to rescind a hardline immigration policy begun under his predecessor, Donald Trump, that forced tens of thousands of migrants to stay in Mexico to await US hearings on their asylum claims.

The top court justices heard oral arguments on Tuesday in a Biden administration appeal of a lower court ruling that reinstated the “Remain in Mexico” policy after the Republican-led states of Texas and Missouri sued to maintain the programme.

Biden suspended the policy shortly after taking office last year.

The Trump administration imposed the programme, formally known as the Migrant Protection Protocols (MPP), in 2019 in an attempt to deter what it called frivolous asylum claims at the United States-Mexico border.

The programme prevented approximately 70,000 migrants, including asylum seekers fearing persecution in their home countries, from being released into the US to await immigration proceedings, instead returning them to Mexico.

Immigration advocates and progressive members of Biden’s Democratic Party have criticised MPP, saying it forced migrants to wait in Mexican border cities where they faced high rates of violence and other rights abuses, including kidnappings. The programme also made it difficult for migrants to access US lawyers.

On Tuesday, dozens of immigrant rights activists held a rally outside the Supreme Court in Washington, DC, setting up flowers with the message “safe not stranded”.

“The Biden v. Texas case is a critical juncture for our democracy, as the Supreme Court will decide whether the states of Texas and Missouri can undermine our laws and the will of millions of voters,” Tami Goodlette, director of litigation at The Refugee and Immigrant Center for Education and Legal Services (RAICES), said during the rally.“Our laws are crystal clear: Everyone who arrives at our border has the right to request asylum and a person who fears persecution cannot be sent to a place where they are in danger,” Goodlette said.

The hearing came shortly before the US is expected to end another key Trump-era border restriction known as Title 42, which has allowed authorities to quickly expel most asylum seekers arriving in search of protection under the guise of the COVID-19 pandemic.

The Biden administration plans to end Title 42 on May 23, but that decision is being legally challenged by 22 states.

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