Biden's bid to end "remain in Mexico" immigration policy blocked by judge

U.S. President Biden addresses 2022 U.S.-Africa Leaders Summit in Washington
U.S. President Joe Biden delivers keynote remarks at a U.S.-Africa Business forum at the 2022 U.S.-Africa Leaders Summit in Washington, U.S., December 14, 2022. REUTERS/Kevin Lamarque TPX IMAGES OF THE DAY
  • Administration failed to consider impact of ending Trump-era policy, judge rules
  • Policy requires migrants to return to Mexico pending asylum rulings
  • U.S. Supreme Court said Biden admin. had power to nix policy

(Reuters) - A federal judge has paused the Biden administration's attempt to end a controversial Trump-era immigration policy that forced tens of thousands of migrants to stay in Mexico to await U.S. hearings on their asylum claims.

U.S. District Judge Matthew Kacsmaryk in Amarillo, Texas said on Thursday that an October 2021 memo from the U.S. Department of Homeland Security (DHS) failed to adequately explain why the so-called "remain in Mexico" policy was ineffective and should be scrapped.

The ruling came in a lawsuit by Texas and Missouri seeking to keep the policy alive.

The U.S. Supreme Court in June said the administration had the power to end the program, formally known as the Migrant Protection Protocols (MPP), but sent the case back to Kacsmaryk to decide whether the 2021 memo complied with the law regulating administrative actions by federal agencies.

The judge on Thursday said it likely did not. DHS did not acknowledge that MPP deterred many migrants from seeking to enter the U.S. in the first place, and failed to account for the impact that ending the policy would have on border states such as Texas, Kacsmaryk said.

The judge blocked DHS from abandoning the policy pending the outcome of the lawsuit. The practical effect of the ruling is unclear, as Mexico's foreign ministry has said it will no longer accept migrants expelled from the U.S. under the program.

A Biden administration official said DHS was well within its authority to terminate the program.

"We disagree with this decision and are determining next steps," the official said.

Texas Attorney General Ken Paxton, a Republican, applauded the ruling in a tweet.

"Biden's open-border agenda won't survive my legal attacks," Paxton said.

The Trump administration adopted the MPP in 2018 in response to an increase in migration along the U.S.-Mexico border, changing longstanding U.S. practice.

The policy prevented certain migrants from other countries who crossed into the U.S. through Mexico, including asylum seekers fearing persecution in their home countries, from being released into the United States to await immigration proceedings, instead returning them to Mexico.

Democrats and immigration advocates have criticized the policy, saying migrants stuck in Mexican border cities have faced kidnappings and other hazards.

But supporters say it discouraged Central American migrants with unmeritorious asylum claims from making the dangerous trek through Mexico to enter the United States.

The case is Texas v. Biden, U.S. District Court for the Northern District of Texas, No. 2:21-cv-00067.

For the states: Dean Sauer of the Missouri Attorney General's office and William Thompson of the Texas Attorney General's office

For the Biden administration: Erez Reuveni of the U.S. Department of Justice

(NOTE: This article has been updated to include a statement from a Biden administration official.)

Read more:

U.S. Supreme Court backs Biden bid to end Trump 'remain in Mexico' policy

Mexico says Trump-era border program formally ends

Biden administration issues new memo ending Trump 'Remain in Mexico' policy

Texas, Missouri sue to revive Trump-era 'remain in Mexico' policy

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Dan Wiessner (@danwiessner) reports on labor and employment and immigration law, including litigation and policy making. He can be reached at