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Migrants seeking asylum at the U.S.-Mexico border

Asylum seekers prepare to be taken to a border patrol processing facility after crossing into the U.S. on June 16, 2021 in La Joya, Texas. (Photo: Brandon Bell/Getty Images)

Supreme Court Ruling on Asylum Policy Denounced as 'Nothing Short of Cruel'

"We put an end to the Trump presidency but we still need to put an end to his cruel, harmful, and deadly policies including this xenophobic one."

Andrea Germanos

The Biden administration is being urged to strengthen protections for asylum seekers after the U.S. Supreme Court's Tuesday decision saying the Trump-era Migrant Protection Protocols, which forced asylum seekers at the southern border to wait in dangerous conditions in Mexico pending legal review of their cases, should be reinstated.

The "decision forcing the reinstatement of the 'Remain in Mexico' policy is nothing short of cruel," said Yael Schacher, senior U.S. advocate at Refugees International, using the phrase commonly used for the policy.

"The government must take all steps available to fully end this illegal program, including by re-terminating it with a fuller explanation."

Enacted in 2019 by the Trump administration, MPP was sharply condemned by human rights advocates who said it was a further display of the administration's xenophobic agenda.

The Biden administration rescinded the policy in June, which Omar Jadwat, director of the ACLU's Immigrants' Rights Project, called the "correct" move because the policy's "whole point... was to punish people for seeking asylum by trapping them in miserable and dangerous conditions."

The Supreme Court's Tuesday decision, The Hill noted, came "after a federal judge in Texas ordered the Biden administration to reinstate the program in response to a lawsuit by the attorneys general of Texas and Missouri. A three-judge panel of the U.S. Court of Appeals for the 5th Circuit let stand that ruling, prompting the Biden administration's emergency request to the justices."

That request for a stay was rejected.

"The applicants have failed to show a likelihood of success on the claim that the memorandum rescinding the Migrant Protection Protocols was not arbitrary and capricious," the court said in an unsigned decision (pdf), to which liberal Justices Stephen Breyer, Sonia Sotomayor, and Elena Kagan dissented.

Jadwat of the ACLU said the ruling was "incorrect, and should be reversed."

“The government must take all steps available to fully end this illegal program, including by re-terminating it with a fuller explanation," he said. "What it must not do is use this decision as cover for abandoning its commitment to restore a fair asylum system."

According to the Associated Press, there's "nothing preventing the administration from trying again to end the program."

That's exactly what Erin Thorn Vela, a staff attorney with Texas Civil Rights Project, said should happen.

In a statement calling Remain in Mexico "unfit for all asylum-seekers" and "inherently unlawful policy," Thorn Vela laid out steps for the administration to urgently take.

 "We call on the Biden administration to immediately issue a new memo terminating this horrific program, and we will hold the administration accountable to issue exemptions for more vulnerable populations in the interim," she said. "That means people with medical issues and disabilities, asylum seekers in the LGBTQ+ community, and Indigenous language speakers—just to name a few—should be excluded from the reinstated program."

"While all asylum seekers, whether returned to Mexico under Remain in Mexico or expelled under Title 42, are vulnerable in dangerous border towns," said Thorn Vela,  "the government must take all available steps to protect those in most immediate danger and risk."

Rep. Pramila Jayapal (D-Wash.) weighed in on the ruling as well.

"We put an end to the Trump presidency," she tweeted "but we still need to put an end to his cruel, harmful, and deadly policies including this xenophobic one."


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