Lawmakers urge Biden to cancel expansion of Remain in Mexico program

Washington, Dec 20 (EFE).- A group of Democratic lawmakers on Monday urged President Joe Biden to cancel the expansion of the “Remain in Mexico” program, which now also obligates Haitians in Mexico who are requesting asylum in the United States to remain in that country while their cases are resolved.

The group, headed by Sen. Bob Menendez and Congresswoman Veronica Escobar, put their requests in a letter they sent to Biden and to which EFE received access on Monday.

In the letter, the legislators from both chambers of Congress expressed “alarm” about the Biden administration’s resumption of Remain in Mexico, which was created by former President Donald Trump, and said that they were especially “disappointed” with the expansion of the program.

Biden this year ended Remain in Mexico earlier this year, but a federal judge invalidated that attempt to terminate the policy and ordered the government to reinstate it.

The Biden administration then decided to introduce a series of changes to the program, which now includes Haitian migrants, who in many cases after spending years in different countries in Latin America have decided to make the trek to the US.

The US government also has established that migrants may only receive access to an attorney for 24 hours when they are in the custody of US authorities, the legislators complain in the letter.

According to the letter, the number of entry ports along the US-Mexico border through which US authorities may expel asylum petitioners back to Mexico has been increased and, in some cases, the Mexican shelters for those people in those zones do not have enough space for them.

Thus, the senators and congressmen said they are “concerned” over Biden’s lack of action, given that the president has not announced any plan to prioritize the asylum cases of people who were expelled to Mexico during the Trump administration and who are still in the neighboring country.

The lawmakers said that they are asking the administration and the Department of Homeland Security to stop enforcing the “xenophobic” policy and to give priority to expanding the legal avenues for people to migrate to the US and the protection of refugees in Latin America.

The letter was signed by 14 senators – including Alex Padilla of California, Ray Lujan of New Mexico and leftist Bernie Sanders of Vermont – as well as by 23 members of the House, among whom are Jesus “Chuy” Garcia of Illinois, Joaquin Castro of Texas and Alexandria Ocasio-Cortez of New York, all of whom are Democrats.

When it was first implemented, between January 2019 and February 2021, the Remain in Mexico program ensured that some 68,000 people were sent back to Mexico while they waited for their asylum cases to be resolved in the US.

Of those people who had to return to Mexico, some 1,500 suffered from violence while they were waiting there, including murder, rape and kidnapping, according to the Human Rights First organization.

EFE bpm/cfa/bp

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