As Migrants Surge Toward Border, Court Hands Biden a Lifeline

Most migrants are from Central America and Haiti. They wait at the International Bridge in Matamoros (Mexico) to gain entry to the United States to claim asylum. (Daniele Volpe/The New York Times).
MATAMOROS (Mexico) President Joe Biden looked defeated when the Supreme Court effectively reaffirmed a keystone of Trump's era migration policy late last year.

Biden had already condemned the policy that requires asylum-seekers in Mexico to wait for them and suspended it his first day in office as part of an aggressive push against former President Donald Trump's harshest immigration policies.

However, some Biden officials were quiet happy to receive the Supreme Courts order. Current and former officials stated that it brought some relief.

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Prior to that ruling, Biden's steps to loosen the restrictions on migration were quickly followed by an influx of migrants heading north, overtaking the United States southwest border. Officials fear that the trend of increasing numbers of migrants will continue into fall, as July saw an unprecedented two-decade high in fears.

Current and former officials confirmed that there was already concern within the Biden administration about the potential for migrants to migrate towards the United States because of the rapid pace of the immigration reforms.

Biden officials had been talking about Trump's policy being revived in a limited manner to discourage migration, according to the officials. These officials have previously worked on immigration policy, but are not allowed to discuss the internal discussions of the administration on the topic. The Supreme Court ordered the Biden administration to adopt the policy in some form, without drawing the ire of Democrats who resent Trump's border policies.

Officials say they now have the chance to look back and come up with a more humane version Trump's policy. They hope this will reduce the huge number of people crossing the border.

The Biden administration's desire to quickly reverse Trump's policies has led to this situation, according to Alan Bersin. Bersin was the commissioner for U.S. Customs and Border Protection under President Barack Obama.

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Because it overturned central provisions of the nation's asylum system, the policy at the heart of the case, commonly known as Remain In Mexico, quickly became one of Trump's most controversial elements. Instead of allowing migrants into the United States while they assessed their claims, it forced thousands of asylum-seekers to wait in Mexico's squalid encampments, where there were numerous reports of kidnappings and other serious abuses.

Texas and Missouri sued Biden after he suspended the policy. They argued that the influx in people was causing severe and continuing burdens to the states. The Supreme Court did not block a lower court ruling that required the program to be restored. This forced the Biden administration into compliance while the appeals process continues.

The ambivalence in the Biden administration is a sign of a larger concern: the possibility that the border crisis could have electoral consequences for Democrats, potentially jeopardizing hopes of a more substantial overhaul of the nation's asylum and migration systems.

They are being held back by the larger immigration agenda of the Biden administration, Doris Meissner (commissioner of the Immigration and Naturalization Service 1993-2000) said. In the short term, there are very few tools available other than enforcement.

Biden, upon his election, not only permitted migrants to apply to the United States for asylum, but also refused to immediately expel unaccompanied kids and moved to freeze deportations.

The Republicans attacked the new administration from multiple fronts as migrants surged towards the border. This forced the president to abandon key campaign promises and angered some of his base members.

Biden, on his part, has leaned on Mexico, Central America, and Central America to increase their border enforcement. However, these efforts have not effectively curbed the flow of migrants north and have resulted in violent attacks by law enforcement agencies in those countries on migrants.

Although the administration attempted to change the welcoming tone by sending Vice President Kamala Harris from the United States to Guatemala in June to declare the border closed, migrants and smugglers claim that the encouraging signals given at the beginning of Biden's term are all that is left.

Abraham Barberi, a Matamoros pastor, shared the stories of migrants to him. Barberi's church became a refuge for migrants soon after Biden took office. Mothers and toddlers began to show up at his doors.

Barberi, speaking between the thin mattresses covering the church floors, said that the Biden administration would let people in. Everyone was flooded at that point.

According to the Transactional Records Access Clearinghouse of Syracuse University, which tracks migration data, thousands of asylum-seekers were slowly allowed into the United States following the Trump policy of making them wait in Mexico. Barberi stated that a flood of migrants arrived almost immediately.

Barberi packed dozens of bunk beds in Bible school classrooms, and filled shelves with baby formula, diapers, and medicine. Barbieri stated that if the Remain in Mexico policy returns, there will be a lot more people here.

Marilin Lopz is one of them. She fled Honduras in 2019 with her son after being threatened with death. She claimed that a trafficker took her to Mexico and held her captive for several months. She said that she paid the ransom, and eventually made it to the border. However, she was accosted by two kidnappers in Matamoros, and she fled to hide, so she could not show up at some of her asylum appointments.

According to the Syracuse University clearinghouse, Trump granted asylum to less that 2% of all applicants to the Remain in Mexico policy. Many of those denied asylum were unable to attend court, including Lopz who was too afraid to go around Matamoros because of crime and kidnapping.

Lopz filed a request for protection in late August after the Biden administration stated it would reopen certain cases.

Lopz received a message from the United Nations a few days later: They were supporting her petition.

Lopz stated that they destroyed all of our hopes. We feel cheated by the Biden government, which promised many things.

Although it is unclear how the Biden administration will react to the Supreme Courts decision, officials in the United States as well as Mexico claim that discussions have begun about the implementation of a new Remain version in Mexico.

Roberto Velasco is the chief officer of the Mexican Foreign Ministry for North America. He stated in a statement, that the Supreme Court would never dictate Mexico's migration policy. It is determined and implemented with sovereignty.

Velasco stated that Mexico has recently suggested that they form a working group together with the United States to manage the extraordinary flows. This would also be politically difficult in the United States. Jill Biden, the first lady, described Matamoros camp as "heartbreaking" when she visited it in 2019.

After witnessing the suffering of refugees all over the globe, it felt like a betrayal to see it at our border. She said this in a tweet after the visit: "This cruelty is not who you are."

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