José López Zamorano | La Red Hispana 
Photo Credit: La Red Hispana

Donald Trump didn’t only leave Joe Biden the aftermath of his racist and xenophobic political strategy that resulted in an increase in white supremacist groups and hate crimes against the most vulnerable minorities. The current president also inherited the Migrant Protection Protocols, better known as the “Stay in Mexico” policy, which forced more than 70,000 asylum seekers, most of them Central Americans, to wait their turn in Mexican territory.

Although President Biden correctly decided to remove those protocols, a Texas judge determined to revive them and forced the federal government to renegotiate them with the Mexican government.

A few days ago, the Biden administration issued a new memorandum that will go into effect once the court order is lifted that will terminate the protocols, which will go down in history as one of the most shameful cases of non-compliance by the United States and their asylum obligations.

Appropriately, in an official memorandum, Homeland Security Secretary Alejandro Mayorkas asserted that Stay in Mexico was plagued by endemic failures, unjustifiable human costs, and ignored the roots that cause irregular migration in the United States. “I recognize that the MPP probably contributed to reducing migratory flows. But it did so by imposing substantial and unjustifiable human costs on people who were exposed to harm while waiting in Mexico,” he wrote.

The DHS Memorandum recognized that, during the investigation of the program’s effects, considerable evidence emerged that asylum seekers were subjected to “extreme violence” and insecurity at the hands of transnational criminal organizations that profited by exploiting the vulnerabilities of migrants.

Organizations for the defense of the rights of migrants and lawyers working on the border have documented that a percentage of asylum seekers were forced to return to their countries of origin, after spending periods of up to more than a year waiting in Mexico in adverse humanitarian conditions, in the midst of the pandemic, living overcrowded and in many cases without access to minimum welfare.

As if that were not enough, a study conducted in 2019 by the Human Rights First organization documented that the program, which forced asylum seekers from countries such as Cuba, El Salvador, Guatemala, Honduras, Nicaragua and Venezuela to wait in Mexico, became a “humanitarian catastrophe” as it resulted in beatings, kidnappings and rapes.

Although MPPs will hold for now until the Texas judge’s order is lifted, the Biden administration has an opportunity to establish an exemplary asylum policy, which recognizes its obligations under US and international law, and offers to the legitimate applicants full respect for due process, and the humane and dignified treatment they deserve.

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