WASHINGTON D.C., DC — The Supreme Court ruled on Thursday that the Biden administration properly ended a Trump-era policy forcing some U.S. asylum-seekers to wait in Mexico.
The justices' 5-4 decision for the administration came in a case about the “Remain in Mexico” policy under President Donald Trump. Chief Justice John Roberts wrote the decision and was joined by fellow conservative Justice Brett Kavanaugh as well as the court's three liberal justices — Stephen Breyer, Sonia Sotomayor and Elena Kagan.
President Joe Biden suspended the program on his first day in office in January 2021. But lower courts ordered it reinstated in response to a lawsuit from Republican-led Texas and Missouri. The current administration has sent far fewer people back to Mexico than did the Trump administration.
The heart of the legal fight was about whether immigration authorities, with far less detention capacity than needed, had to send people to Mexico or whether they had the discretion under federal law to release asylum-seekers into the United States while they awaited their hearings.
Texas Gov. Greg Abbott said the decision to end "Remain in Mexico" will make the border crisis worse. He released the following statement:
“The Supreme Court’s decision upholding DHS’s termination of the Remain-in-Mexico policy will only embolden the Biden Administration’s open border policies. More than fifty people recently died in a trailer—people who were allowed to cross our border illegally because of President Biden’s policies. Reinstating and fully enforcing Remain-in-Mexico would deter thousands more migrants from making that deadly trek, and President Biden should take that simple step to secure the border because it is the only humane thing to do.”
Texas Attorney General Ken Paxton called the decision "unfortunate" in the following statement.
“Today’s decision by the U.S. Supreme Court is an unfortunate one, and I believe it was wrongly decided. Over a year ago, Texas and Missouri sued the Biden Administration for illegally abandoning MPP. I won in district court and then won again on appeal. The Administration dragged its feet and refused to implement this effective program in good faith, allowing hundreds of thousands of illegals to pour over the border month after month. Today’s decision makes the border crisis worse. But it’s not the end. I’ll keep pressing forward and focus on securing the border and keeping our communities safe in the dozen other immigration suits I’m litigating in court.”
Paxton also said he agrees with Justice Alito's dissent which states:
“When it appears that [an] alien is not admissible, may the Government simply release the alien in this country and hope that the alien will show up for the hearing at which his or her entitlement to remain will be decided? Congress has provided a clear answer to that question, and the answer is no,” said Justice Alito. “Those requirements, as we have held, are mandatory.”
About 70,000 people were enrolled in the program, formally known as Migrant Protection Protocols, after President Donald Trump launched it in 2019 and made it a centerpiece of efforts to deter asylum-seekers.
After Biden’s suspension of the program, Homeland Security Secretary Alejandro Mayorkas ended it in June 2021. In October, the department produced additional justifications for the policy’s demise, to no avail in the courts.
The program resumed in December, but barely 3,000 migrants had enrolled by the end of March, during a period when authorities stopped migrants about 700,000 times at the U.S.-Mexico border.
Democratic-led states and progressive groups were on the administration’s side. Republican-run states and conservative groups sided with Texas and Missouri.
The case is Biden v. Texas, 21-954.