Mexico Opposes “Remain in Mexico” Policy

February 7, 2023

The Mexican government said Monday that it opposed the possible restart of the U.S. “Remain in Mexico” policy requiring that migrants seeking asylum wait south of the border for hearings in U.S. immigration court.

In December, U.S. District Judge Matthew Kacsmaryk blocked a bid by the Biden Administration to end the Trump-era policy. Kacsmaryk ruled to stay the policy’s termination  until legal challenges by the states of Texas and Missouri are settled.  He did not, however, order the policy reinstated, leaving his ruling’s impact on the program unclear.

The stay by Kacsmaryk came after the Supreme Court in July handed down a 5-4 decision to end “Remain in Mexico.” Chief Justice Roberts and Justice Kavanaugh sided with the Court’s three liberal Justices by sending Biden v Texas back to federal district court in that state.

President Biden suspended the policy on his first day in office, saying it “goes against everything we stand for as a nation of immigrants.” 

Texas and Missouri asserted in their legal challenges that the Department of Homeland Security has not adequately explained why “Remain in Mexico” was ineffective and should be ended. Mexico’s foreign ministry, meanwhile, did not give reasons for opposing the policy. 

Activists, however, have argued that it leaves migrants in dangerous border cities where they face threats. A 2021 report by Human Rights Watch, Stanford University and Willamette University reported that children and adults had described “rape or attempted rape and other sexual assault, abduction for ransom, extortion, armed robbery, and other crimes committed against them” while under “Remain in Mexico.”  

If Mexico’s government remains firm in opposing the policy, the U.S. will likely have to consider whether asylum seekers can stay in the United States while their claims are being evaluated—or make other arrangements to remove them from the U.S.

More than 70,000 asylum-seekers were forced to wait in Mexico for U.S. hearings under the policy during the Trump Administration. Under Biden, roughly 7,500 migrants have been left in Mexico. 

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