US top court to examine Trump-era border policy

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The US Supreme Court has agreed to consider whether President Joe Biden can end a controversial Trump-era border policy that makes asylum-seekers wait in Mexico as a US immigration court reviews their case.

This comes after the Biden administration, late last year, asked the conservative-leaning top court to review decisions made by appeals courts that reinstated the “Remain in Mexico” policy implemented by former President Donald Trump in 2019.

Suspending the migration program, officially called Migrant Protection Protocols, was one of Biden’s first steps upon entering office. Homeland Security Secretary Alejandro Mayorkas officially ended it in June 2021.

Republicans push against suspension

Soon after, Republican-led states of Missouri and Texas sued over the president’s action, which led a federal judge to reinstate the policy. A three-judge appeals court panel agreed with the decision. The district judge and two of the three appellate judges were Trump appointees.

Migrants sit in a line, facing US border guards in New Mexico

Trump had routinely branded migrants as a threat to national security

In its request to the Supreme Court, the Justice Department argued that the program “exposes migrants to unacceptable” risks and the previous court decisions were based on “erroneous interpretations” of the law. The top court now plans to hear arguments in April, with a decision expected by late June.

Asylum-seekers left exposed

In the past, Homeland Security Secretary Mayorkas acknowledged that the migrant policy possibly contributed to a drop in illegal border crossings in 2019, but came at “substantial and unjustifiable human costs” to asylum-seekers, many of whom were exposed to violence while waiting for their hearings in Mexico.

After it was reinstated, 572 people had been returned to Mexico between December and February 13, according to the United Nations migration agency.

While Biden has pledged a more humane immigration policy, both administrations have used special powers, aimed at preventing the spread of the coronavirus, to expel more than 1.5 million migrants since March 2020. They were not given an opportunity to claim asylum.

see/dj (AP, AFP)

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