US President Joe Biden will start turning asylum seekers back to Mexico as soon as next week under a reinstated Trump-era “Remain in Mexico” program — but will offer them the option to receive the COVID-19 vaccine, Axios has learned.
Under court orders, the president will officially undo a key immigration promise, which will force asylum-seekers to wait months in Mexico ahead of their immigration court hearings in the U.S. — as long as Mexico accepts them.
- One difference from the program under former President Trump’s administration: All migrant adults enrolled in “Remain in Mexico” will be offered the vaccine, although it can’t be required, according to two government immigration officials.
- It’s unclear at what point in the process the migrants would be able to get their shots, whether before being turned back, when they return to the U.S. for their court hearing or at some other time.
- The policy, formally called the Migrant Protection Protocols (MPP), will first be reinstated in El Paso and Brownsville, Texas, as well as San Diego, California, one DHS official said.
Timing has been in flux, and the administration is ultimately at the mercy of Mexico’s cooperation.
- “In compliance with the court order, we are working to reimplement MPP as promptly as possible,“ DHS spokesperson Marsha Espinosa told Axios.
- ”We cannot do so until we have the independent agreement from the Government of Mexico to accept those we seek to enroll in MPP. We will communicate to the court, and to the public, the timing of reimplementation when we are prepared to do so.”
Vulnerable populations are expected to be exempted. It’s unclear who will fall under that category, or how border officials will decide who gets placed in the program.
- The effectiveness of the policy will continually depend on Mexico’s willingness to accept the migrants turned back.
- Two sources familiar with internal discussions also highlighted concerns about migrants who would be forced to travel through Mexico in the middle of the night, so they can be on time for early morning court hearings.
- The administration is trying to address this safety concern ahead of MPP courts reopening later on.