By Miriam Raftery
Photo: migrant camp in Mexico; CC via Bing
July 2, 2022 (Washington D.C.) – The Supreme Court ruled 5-4 this week to allow the Biden administration to end the “Remain in Mexico” policy imposed by Trump, a program officially known as the Migrant Protection Protocols. That policy forced most migrants to stay in Mexico instead of being either detained in the U.S. or released here while awaiting immigration hearings. But hurdles remain before most migrants can be granted entry into the U.S.
Most of the migrants have fled dangerous conditions in their homelands, but remaining in Mexico has put them at further risk of harm with some kidnapped or killed in Mexico. Many others have died in desperate attempts to cross the border illegally, left with no legal options. These include 53 migrants found dead in a truck in Texas this week from heat and dehydration, plus others who perished attempting to cross into the mountains and deserts in San Diego and Imperial Counties locally and elsewhere.
In the case before the Supreme Court, Biden v. Texas, the majority of justices ruled that immigrant law authorizes the federal government to end the program – however the justices remanded the case back to lower courts to resolve whether the Biden administration order to end the program may have violated the Administrative Procedure Act. In addition, an earlier high court decision let stand Trump’s interpretation of Title 42, a public health law that Trump’s administration used to bar migrants indefinitely during the COVID-19 pandemic, rather than simply quarantining them to assure they were COVID-free.
Vicki B. Gaubeca, director of the Southern Border Communities Coalition in San Diego, stated, “We laud the Supreme Court for issuing this ruling, which will allow President Biden to partially restore a just and fair process for families seeking protection in the United States. We cannot continue to expel families and children fleeing violence back into violence without due process.”
But she added, “While this is a good ruling, there are other obstacles that prevent people from having their day in court, such as Title 42, a public health law that was first weaponized by the Trump administration to shut down the U.S.-Mexico border to families seeking safety. Biden was also blocked by a lower court in his attempt to left the lethal use of this public health law.”
A statement from the Department of Homeland Security praised the ruling, noting that the remain in Mexico program “imposes unjustifiable human costs, and pulls resources and personnel away from other priority efforts to secure our border. We welcome the Supreme Court’s decision affirming that the Secretary has the discretionary authority to terminate the program, and we will continue our efforts to terminate the program as soon as legally permissible.”
Justice John Roberts penned the decision, finding the lower court erred in blocking Biden’s termination of the program and suggests the lower courts can’t block ending the program while working out the administrative details, though the decision is muddy.
Roberts joined with fellow conservative Brett Kavanaugh and three liberal justices, Sonia Sotomayor, Stephen Breyer and Elena Kagan in the majority.
Four other conservatives dissented: Samuel Alito, Amy Coney Barrett, Neil Gorsuch and Clarence Thomas. Alito’s dissent fretted that the government wanted to release “untold numbers of aliens who are very likely to be removed if they show up for their removal hearings.” Coney-Barrett, in a separate dissent, contended the lower courts don’t have authority to resolve the legal issues in question.
Long-term, immigrant advocates want Congress to enact comprehensive immigration reforms, something most Republicans have long blocked. “We need a better system that offers a safe, orderly and humane process for people who come to our borderlands, seeking to contribute to our diverse nation and to find safety and a better life for their children,” Gaubeca concludes.