US resumes controversial 'Remain in Mexico' policy
Speaker 1: (00:00)
This week marked the return of the controversial remain in Mexico policy. As two asylum seekers were sent back to Tijuana to await the resolution of their cases, the program, which began during the Trump administration and was later restarted by president Biden, highlights a frustration in the handling of asylum cases, an approach that many thought would differ under the new president. Joining me now with more is San Diego union Tribune reporter Kate Morrisey. Kate, welcome back to the program.
Speaker 2: (00:28)
Thanks for having me it's. So Kate,
Speaker 1: (00:30)
Bring us up to speed here. What led to the restarting of this program earlier this week, the
Speaker 2: (00:35)
Program as a whole actually restarted in December, but it restarted here at the San Diego Tijuana border this week. And so this comes from a federal judge in a case brought by Texas and Missouri over the way that the Biden administration ended the program last year when they were initially trying to wind it down. And the judge decided that the program had been ended incorrectly and ordered that it be as part of that, the Biden administration has actually in some ways expanded the program. Particularly when you look at which nationalities they have said are eligible to be returned, that has grown to actually be the entire Western hemisphere, which was not the case when this program existed under the Trump administration. And so we have her a lot of criticism from folks saying that the Biden administration is sort of using the judge's order as an excuse to bring back the program because it's reverting to this mindset of deterrence. That is sort of a longstanding way that the United States has addressed people coming to its border, including asylum seekers.
Speaker 1: (01:41)
And let's go into that a little deeper. Talk more about, what's been the reaction to the return of this policy.
Speaker 2: (01:48)
Well, locally, a lot of the organizations that are generally involved in supporting asylum seekers in the San Diego Tijuana region, um, all of these legal services organizations are refusing to cooperate with the program. The Biden administration in Texas found a group of attorneys willing to sort of be a, a hotline for some of the people being returned there, but they have not found someone to do that work as far as I can tell in the San Diego region. And we're hearing, you know, just everyone is so frustrated that this program is coming back is a key campaign point for the president that he was going to get rid of this program. And I've heard a lot of people arguing that there were other ways that the administration could have responded to the judge's order. There are still court cases out there trying to get this program ruled as a legal anyway, and, and the Biden administration still pursuing the previous administration's defenses of the program in, in those court cases.
Speaker 1: (02:50)
What do we know about the asylum seekers who were sent back
Speaker 2: (02:54)
So far? There have been across the border more than 200 people who have been returned the first day in San Diego, Wednesday, there were two people, it was two men from Columbia. I believe there were seven more the next day. And, and we have yet to see, um, how many are coming back today Friday. So it's sort of slowly increasing in, in the numbers that are being returned. What we do know about the larger number at the Texas border is that these are largely nationalities who were previously being allowed into the United States to pursue their asylum claims. And that's significant because there is a second border policy from the Trump administration that has carried over and been continued and defended by the Biden administration at is the title 42 policy, uh, which started under the pandemic and gives officials this ability to expel people without allowing them to access the asylum system.
Speaker 2: (03:50)
And what we've seen lately is that policy being applied to certain nationalities, but not as much to others. So we see that happening to people from Mexico, Honduras, Guatemala, El Salvador, and what we've heard from officials, and what we've seen on the ground is that people of those nationalities are still being selected for title 42, rather than remain in Mexico. So remain in Mexico is more happening to people from Nicaragua. For example, where you have a president, who's basically made himself into a dictator. And so anybody who is politically dissenting there is not safe. And so we do see a lot of people fleeing here from Nicaragua asking for protection. And in Texas, that's been the largest group returned. Some
Speaker 1: (04:33)
Of the criticism is also that this policy has the stint of racism on it. Can you talk a bit about that? I
Speaker 2: (04:39)
Think that goes back to this idea of deterrent that the United States has had for decades in its approach to border management, which is based in this belief that people arriving at the border is a bad thing. And a lot of that is based in some of the racism and xenophobia that dates back decades and centuries in our country. And so when you're looking at how these P are framed and how they're thought of their continuation of that legacy in a lot of ways, we haven't seen anyone in these positions of power in our country, really try to fundamentally change that we had some promises from the Biden administration, that they would look to creating a more humane asylum system, but we haven't seen that mindset really change from what has been around for decades and decades.
Speaker 1: (05:24)
I've been speaking with San Diego union Tribune, reporter, Kate Morrisey, Kate, thanks so much for joining us. Thanks for having me.
Known officially as Migrant Protection Protocols, the policy has long been criticized by migrant right's advocates for putting asylum seekers in harms way upon their return to Mexico.
While the Biden administration initially sought to do away with the Trump-era border policy, its initial cancellation was struck down in court and has since both continued and expanded to add more countries of origin for asylum seekers that are eligible to be returned upon entry to the U.S.
The program highlights a growing frustration in the handling of asylum cases that many thought would differ under a new president.