WASHINGTON — The U.S. Supreme Court on Thursday ruled in favor of the Biden administration in a dispute over continuing a Trump-era immigration policy that requires those seeking asylum in the U.S. to wait in Mexico while awaiting a decision.
In a 5-4 decision, the court determined that officials did not violate federal law when the Department of Homeland Security issued a memorandum ending the program, dubbed “Remain in Mexico.” President Joe Biden had suspended the program after he was sworn into office in January 2021.
Last year, a federal court determined that the memo that terminated the policy had been incorrectly issued. The court ordered the program to remain in place as challenges continued. Last year, the Supreme Court indicated that the Biden administration might have violated federal law in its attempt to end the program, The Associated Press reported.
Justices heard arguments over the case in April.
As of December 2021, about 70,000 asylum-seekers had been subject to the policy, which applies to people who arrive from Mexico by land, according to NPR and the Department of Homeland Security.
The White House has committed to finding ways to end the program, which officials have called immoral and inefficient. In a memo issued in October, Homeland Security Secretary Alejandro Mayorkas acknowledged that the policy, also known as the Migrant Protection Protocols, likely contributed to a reduced number of people seeking asylum in the U.S.
“But it did so by imposing substantial and unjustifiable human costs on the individual who were exposed to harm while waiting in Mexico,” he wrote, adding that he believes other policies aimed at reforming the asylum system and addressing the root causes of regional migration are likely to lower immigration to the U.S.
“These policies … seek to tackle longstanding problems that have plagued our immigration system for decades and achieve systemic change,” he wrote. “Once fully implemented, I believe these policies will address migratory flows as effectively, in fact more effectively, while holding true to our nation’s values.”
Texas and Missouri sued to restore the Remain in Mexico program last year, arguing that the policy’s reversal violated administrative and immigration law, according to NPR.
Late last year, Texas Attorney General Ken Paxton called Biden “reckless” and said that “poorly planned immigration changes” would put the safety of Texans at risk. Missouri Attorney General Eric Schmitt accused the Biden administration of emboldening “drug and human trafficking at the border and into the interior” with its policies and vowed to hold officials accountable “for their failures to address the crisis at the border.”
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