The White House on Tuesday urged potential Central American asylum seekers not to rush the US-Mexico border as President Biden ends former President Donald Trump’s “Remain in Mexico” policy.
The 2018 policy required asylum seekers arriving at the Mexico border to await a decision on their claims before entering the US.
Applicants currently awaiting a decision will be allowed into the US under Biden’s phase-out.
White House national security adviser Jake Sullivan and his deputy Liz Sherwood-Randall said in a statement that the initial rollback of “Remain in Mexico” will apply only to the 71,000 asylum seekers who are already part of the program.
“If you seek entry into the US and do not have an active MPP case, you will be immediately expelled and will not be permitted to remain in the United States,” they said.
In December, then-President-elect Biden said that he was concerned about abruptly relaxing Trump’s immigration policies, lest he trigger “2 million people on our border.”
Advocates of the “Remain in Mexico” policy say it deters asylum seekers from entering the US despite knowing that their claim of persecution is likely to be denied. Some asylum seekers in the US are allowed work permits as their claims are processed.
Opponents of the policy say that northern Mexico can be just as dangerous as the crime-ridden Central American countries that the applicants are fleeing.
Sullivan and Sherwood-Randall said new asylum seekers should not plan to report to the border immediately.
“We caution people seeking to immigrate to the United States that our borders are not open, and that this is just the first phase in the administration’s work to reopen access to an orderly asylum process,” the White House officials said.
“This new process applies to individuals who were returned to Mexico under the MPP program and have cases pending before the Executive Office for Immigration Review.”
They said, “Individuals outside of the United States who were not returned to Mexico under MPP or who do not have active immigration court cases will not be considered for participation in this first phase of this program and should await further instructions.”