Biden begins dismantling Trump's 'Remain in Mexico' asylum policy

play article
Subscribers can listen to this article
  • President Joe Biden announced the United States will soon begin admitting asylum seekers who were forced to remain in Mexico.
  • This is part of dismantling a law implemented by former president Donald Trump, which saw at least 70 000 people returned to Mexico. 
  • Lauding the latest development, Mexico president Andres Manuel Lopez Obrador said Mexican workers helped play a vital role in the US economy.

Asylum seekers forced to remain in Mexico while their cases are being resolved in the United States will begin to be admitted into the US as of next week, President Joe Biden's administration announced on Friday.

Biden instructed the Department of Homeland Security (DHS) earlier this month to take action to end the controversial "Remain in Mexico" program put in place by his predecessor Donald Trump.

It saw tens of thousands of non-Mexican asylum seekers - mostly from Central America - sent back over the border pending the outcome of their asylum applications, creating a humanitarian crisis in the area, exacerbated by the Covid-19 pandemic.

"Beginning on 19 February, the Department of Homeland Security will begin phase one of a program to restore safe and orderly processing at the southwest border," the agency announced in a statement.

It said there are approximately 25 000 active cases still. Candidates will be tested first for the coronavirus, a senior DHS official who asked not to be identified told reporters.

MUST READ | The White House is expected to put a refugee advocate in charge of reuniting separated migrant familie

At least 70 000 people were returned to Mexico under the agreement from January 2019, when the program began to be implemented, through December 2020, according to the NGO American Immigration Council.

US authorities emphasized that they are working closely with the Mexican government and with international organizations and NGOs at the border.

DHS chief Alejandro Mayorkas, who is the first Latino and the first immigrant to head the department, stressed that Washington is committed to "rebuilding a safe, orderly and humane immigration system."

"This latest action is another step in our commitment to reform immigration policies that do not align with our nation's values," Mayorkas said in a statement.

The program was part of Trump's hardline plan to fight illegal immigration, one of the hallmarks of his administration and which included efforts to build a border wall and the policy which separated children from thousands of migrant families.

After Biden took office on 20 January, his administration announced that it would reverse the most controversial measures and created a task force to reunite families that remain separated, a policy his administration has termed a "national shame."

On the day Biden was inaugurated, the DHS announced the suspension of new registrations in the "Remain in Mexico" program and asked all those enrolled to stay where they are while waiting to be informed about their cases.

Washington said on Friday that those waiting "should not approach the border until instructed to do so."

OPINION | Republican senators still fear Trump by John Matisonn

In Mexico, President Andres Manuel Lopez Obrador, at his press briefing, welcomed Biden's move.

Lopez Obrador said he hoped to discuss with Biden a work visa program for Mexicans and Central Americans.

"Their presence as workers in the United States" is vital to the US economy, Lopez Obrador said.

Migrants in Mexico hoping to reach the US welcomed the policy change in Washington.

"With this news our miracle is on the verge of becoming reality," said Nicol Bueso, a 19-year-old Honduran who has been living in a shelter in Ciudad Juarez on the US border for a year and a half.

"I am very happy because in all this time we have been here waiting we have had many unpleasant experiences," she said.

Jose Madrid, a 40-year-old Honduran, thanked the Biden administration.

"Life is very hard in Central America and we are grateful to the president for making that decision and helping Central America," said Madrid, who has been in Ciudad Juarez for nearly two years.

Did you know you can comment on this article? Subscribe to News24 and add your voice to the conversation.

We live in a world where facts and fiction get blurred
In times of uncertainty you need journalism you can trust. For only R75 per month, you have access to a world of in-depth analyses, investigative journalism, top opinions and a range of features. Journalism strengthens democracy. Invest in the future today.
Subscribe to News24
Lockdown For
Voting Booth
Do you think South Africa needs tighter restrictions to combat the third wave?
Please select an option Oops! Something went wrong, please try again later.
Yes, the situation is grim and needs serious measures
27% - 1137 votes
No, we cannot afford more lockdowns
34% - 1426 votes
Yes, but only in provinces where it is out of control
39% - 1629 votes
Rand - Dollar
Rand - Pound
Rand - Euro
Rand - Aus dollar
Rand - Yen
Brent Crude
Top 40
All Share
Resource 10
Industrial 25
Financial 15
All JSE data delayed by at least 15 minutes Iress logo