Trump administration announces plan to resume hearings for migrants in Mexico
Posted July 18, 2020 11:08 a.m. EDT
CNN — The departments of Homeland Security and Justice plan to restart hearings for migrants forced to wait in Mexico as they seek asylum in the US, the agencies announced, once health and safety criteria amid the coronavirus pandemic are met.
The controversial program -- officially known as the Migrant Protection Protocols -- requires migrants to wait in Mexico for the duration of their immigration hearings. It has resulted in the creation of makeshift camps where hundreds of migrants have waited for weeks, if not months, in squalid and unsafe conditions.
As a result of the coronavirus pandemic, the Trump administration in March first postponed all hearings related to the so-called Remain in Mexico policy of returning migrants to Mexico until their court date in the US.
"In order to resume MPP hearings in a responsible manner that will minimize risk to public health and the spread of disease, DHS plans to adhere to recommended federal guidance and protocols," the department said in a press release Friday.
Once the criteria are met, the departments will provide public notification at least 15 calendar days prior to resumption of the hearings with location-specific details.
Criteria includes states moving into new phases of reopening and lowering of global health advisories.
The administration's policy faced legal challenges since its implementation in January 2019, ultimately landing before the US Supreme Court.
In March, the high court said the policy can stay in effect while challenges in the lower courts play out, marking a victory for the Trump administration, which has increasingly relied on the program since its implementation.
The Trump administration says the policy discourages migrants from attempting illegal crossings or making false claims to stay in the US, thus reducing the strain on the US immigration system and allowing for DHS to more "effectively assist legitimate asylum-seekers."
But immigration advocates argue that the program is unlawful, leaves vulnerable people in dangerous situations, and makes it harder for those with legitimate asylum claims to be granted refuge in the US.