The Biden administration quietly ended the ‘Remain in Mexico’ migrant protocol for those seeking to enter the U.S. illegally. 

This controversial policy was one of several tools that the Trump administration used to manage illegal crossings at the U.S. southern border and to discourage illegal immigration entirely.

People from around the world got the message that they should not attempt to illegally enter our southern border because the government would not let them in. The actions of the Biden administration have since reversed this message. 

The end of the “Remain-in-Mexico” policy comes at a time when illegal border crossings at the southern border are set to surpass a record-breaking 2 million crossings by the end of this fiscal year.

Illegal immigration is at crisis levels. Instead of prioritizing national security, public safety, human rights, and public resources, they are undermining our immigration system and encouraging the migrants and cartels to exploit our vulnerable southern border.

What’s happening

Recently, the Department of Homeland Security announced that it was ending the Migrant Protection Protocols (MPP)–also known as Remain in Mexico–quickly. This followed the U.S. District Judge Matthew Kacsmaryk lifting his injunction that blocked Biden officials from ending the MPP. The Supreme Court ruled in the Biden administration’s favor, finding that it had the authority to end the MPP.

DHS noted that although MPP was ending they could still turn away migrants under the Title 42 health measure.

President Biden weakened Remain in Mexico before ultimately killing it off. One of his earliest actions in office was to end the program which was started in January 2019. Legal challenges aside, the Biden administration neglected to use the protocol to keep people from crossing. Between December 2021 and June 2022, only 5,800 asylum seekers were sent back to Mexico as they awaited a U.S. court date to hear their asylum claim. Compare that to the nearly 70,000 people the Trump administration returned to Mexico after starting the program. 

Implications of the end of MPP

Activists have lauded the end of MPP. They claim that migrants have been exposed to violent crimes such as assaults and kidnappings while staying in Mexican border towns. It’s sad that this vulnerable population has become the target of crime. Still, the reality is that many placed themselves in the situation by attempting to cross the border illegally and claiming asylum. 

Let’s also be clear that most asylum claims will be denied. It’s very likely that many of these migrants are fleeing harsh economic conditions or crime-ridden neighborhoods or they simply want a shot at the American dream. These are understandable motivations, but they do not rise to the level of asylum status.

Smugglers are exploiting desperation among would-be migrants to spread the word through social media apps such as WhatsApp and Facebook that those who reached the border could stay. Migrants will pay whatever they can to try their chances.

Then, migrants are coached to claim asylum to gain entrance into the U.S. and a court date. Because so many people are claiming asylum, immigration courts are backlogged with 1.6 million cases. The current wait time for an asylum case is on average 1,621 days or nearly four and a half years. 

In the meantime, those migrants can live and work in the U.S. Effectively, asylum abuse has become a backdoor entrance policy for migrants. Cartels and traffickers exploit this system.

The Remain-in-Mexico policy at least reduced the incentive to come to the U.S. by weeding out those who did not want to wait out the time it might take before their case would be heard in a Mexican border town.

President Biden has eliminated the disincentive to abuse the asylum system. It should be no surprise that about 1.82 million migrants have been arrested at the southern border so far this federal fiscal year. These numbers beat last fiscal year’s record of 1.66 million apprehensions and are on track to eclipse 2 million apprehensions.

There are clear public policy implications for ignoring illegal immigration at the southern border: fentanyl being smuggled in, human trafficking becoming a $1 billion business, sexual assaults of women and children on the rise, terrorists and MS-13 gang members seeking entry, and the burden on public resources in cities and states that migrants settle in.

Bottom Line

The end of the Remain-in-Mexico policy removes an immigration tool that was effective in addressing and discouraging illegal immigration. As we approach a historic two million border apprehensions, the federal government has few good answers to the quandary of how it will slow illegal immigration and address the problems that come with it.