Biden Unveils Asylum Plan to Replace Trump’s Wait-in-Mexico Policy

Reversing a controversial Trump administration policy, President Joe Biden will allow thousands of asylum-seekers waiting in Mexico to enter the U.S while their cases are pending.

Migrants, many of whom were returned to Mexico under the Trump administration’s “Remain in Mexico” policy, wait in line to get a meal in an encampment in Matamoros, Mexico, in August 2019. (AP Photo/Veronica G. Cardenas, File)

WASHINGTON (CN) — About 25,000 asylum-seekers in Mexico will be allowed entry into the U.S. while their cases await adjudication beginning Feb. 19, the Department of Homeland Security said.

A news release from the agency notes those with pending asylum cases shouldn’t take any action until further instructions from the Biden administration are issued. A virtual registration system will soon be launched so asylum-seekers can sign up for processing and receive information about where to enter into the country, according to DHS.

“This announcement should not be interpreted as an opening for people to migrate irregularly to the United States,” the agency said. “Eligible individuals will only be allowed to enter through designated ports of entry at designated times.”

Homeland Security Secretary Alejandro Mayorkas said in a statement that the Biden administration is committed to rebuilding the nation’s immigration system, and that includes doing away with Migrant Protection Protocols, better known as the “Remain in Mexico” policy, instituted by former President Donald Trump.

“This latest action is another step in our commitment to reform immigration policies that do not align with our nation’s values,” Mayorkas said Thursday. “Especially at the border, however, where capacity constraints remain serious, changes will take time. Individuals who are not eligible under this initial phase should wait for further instructions and not travel to the border.”

On Friday, White House Press Secretary Jen Psaki reiterated the policy shift was not an invitation or opening for asylum-seekers to flood into the country.

“Through a whole of government approach, DHS, the State Department and Justice Department will collaborate with international partners to safely process, under the strictest Covid-19 parameters, eligible individuals to pursue their cases in the United States,” she said.

Her comments Friday carried over from remarks during a press briefing Thursday. Psaki said Biden was committed to putting together “a moral and humane process” for asylum-seekers but the volume of claims is an issue.

“It means we’re just not equipped to process people at the pace that we would like to do,” she said.

Psaki said unclear messaging on the status of asylum processing at the border is being mitigated by guidance from agency officials. The Biden administration is committed to “digging out of the immoral approach to immigration of the prior administration,” she said.

“But it is going to take some time,” Psaki said. “And we need to put in place not only a comprehensive approach to immigration by passing a law that will help address the root causes in the countries that are leading people to try and come to the United States…but we also need some time to review all the detrimental steps that were put in place by the prior administration, so that we can put a more humane system in place.”

Psaki reiterated Thursday that the administration is concerned with mixed signals about the status of accepting asylum-seekers at the border and doesn’t want anyone to put themselves in danger through unnecessary travel during the pandemic.

“We want to treat people with care, of course,” Psaki said. “When they’re unaccompanied children that is a different circumstance and certainly one that we handle carefully, and those individuals are transferred into [Health and Human Services] care. We use every opportunity to convey that while we have goals of what we want to put in place, we have not had the time or ability to do that quite yet.”

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