The Biden administration on Tuesday formally ended a Trump-era immigration policy that forced asylum-seekers to wait in Mexico for hearings in U.S. immigration court.

A seven-page memo by Homeland Security Secretary Alejandro Mayorkas marked the end of the 'Migrant Protection Protocols,' which returned about 70,000 asylum-seekers to Mexico from January 2019 until it was halted on President Joe Biden's first day in office two years later.

The move came the same day as the Biden administration marked the first day of National Immigrant Heritage Month by asking Congress to pass the U.S. Citizenship Act of 2021, which Biden pitched his first day in office, providing a way for an estimated 11 million undocumented people to legally stay in the U.S. 

President Joe Biden
Former President Donald Trump

President Joe Biden's (left) administration formally ended former President Donald Trump's (right) 'Remain in Mexico' policy that forced asylum-seekers to wait in Mexico for hearings in U.S. immigration court

Secretary of Homeland Security Alejandro Mayorkas marked the end of the 'Migrant Protection Protocols,' which returned about 70,000 asylum-seekers to Mexico from January 2019 until it was halted on day No. 1 of President Joe Biden's term

Secretary of Homeland Security Alejandro Mayorkas marked the end of the 'Migrant Protection Protocols,' which returned about 70,000 asylum-seekers to Mexico from January 2019 until it was halted on day No. 1 of President Joe Biden's term 

Biden also marked the beginning of National Immigrant Heritage Month by asking Congress to pass the U.S. Citizenship Act of 2021, which provides a path to residency and citizenship for undocumented immigrants. Here, asylum-seeking migrants wait for border patrol on May 28

Biden also marked the beginning of National Immigrant Heritage Month by asking Congress to pass the U.S. Citizenship Act of 2021, which provides a path to residency and citizenship for undocumented immigrants. Here, asylum-seeking migrants wait for border patrol on May 28

Biden says it's time to end 'exhausting war' on immigration
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'My plan would provide a pathway to lawful permanent residency and citizenship for these undocumented immigrants, including Dreamers, individuals with Temporary Protected Status, farm workers, and other essential workers who contribute to our Nation every day,' a White House proclamation read. 


The White House memo also noted that it was an 'especially difficult period' thanks to the COVID-19 pandemic and 'the all-too-frequent demonization of immigrants,' with Biden asking Americans to 'recommit ourselves to our values as a welcoming Nation.'  

Biden's changes to Trump's 'Remain in Mexico' were a foregone conclusion - as Biden had promised as a candidate to end the policy - but the president left a window open by ordering a review before shutting it down permanently. 

Mayorkas said keeping the policy intact or modifying it 'would not be consistent with this Administration's vision and values and would be a poor use of the Department's resources.' 

He said the costs would far outweigh any benefits.

The policy coincided with a sharp decline of asylum-seekers at the border, but critics noted that people were hampered by violent conditions in Mexico, lack of access to lawyers and difficulty making it to court. 

Mayorkas acknowledged those concerns by noting the high rate of denied claims for failing to appear in court and the lack of housing, income and safety in Mexico.


Since Feb. 19, about 11,200 people with active cases have been allowed to return to the United States to wait for a ruling, a process that can take years in the backlogged court system. 

The administration has yet to say if tens of thousands more whose cases were either dismissed or denied will get another chance.

The administration has largely kept in place pandemic-related powers introduced by President Donald Trump in March 2020 to expel people to Mexico without an opportunity to seek asylum, justified on grounds of protecting public health. 

Mayorkas acknowledged planning for those pandemic-related powers to be lifted but was light on specifics.

The secretary pointed to a new docket in immigration court announced Friday that aims to decide asylum cases at the border within 300 days. 

He promised 'additional anticipated regulatory and policy changes,' without elaborating.

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