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Biden spending $24M on tent courts to hear asylum claims at border

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The Biden administration has forked up $14 million and plans to spend an additional $24 million per month to set up tents at the U.S.-Mexico border in which to hear asylum cases, part of a court-ordered reinstatement of President Donald Trump's "Remain in Mexico" policy.

U.S. Customs and Border Protection will spend millions to rebuild outdoor courtroom facilities in two Texas border cities, according to court documents, to restart the Remain in Mexico policy, formally known as the Migrant Protection Protocols program, a Trump initiative that President Joe Biden rolled back shortly after taking office. CBP Chief Operating Officer Blas Nunez-Neto told the court that the administration will comply with a Supreme Court order to reinstate the policy by mid-November. The courts will go up in Brownsville and Laredo. Asylum officers and immigration judges nationwide will virtually decide the claims.

U.S. officials have so far received cooperation from their Mexican counterparts, who are willing to allow potentially tens of thousands of people to be returned to Mexico and live on the streets. In initially setting the Remain in Mexico policy, former President Donald Trump threatened to tax trade from Mexico if the country did not cooperate with the United States to curb migration through the country.

The program was first implemented in January 2019 under then-DHS Secretary Kirstjen Nielsen. MPP allowed federal customs officers at ports of entry and Border Patrol agents to send anyone seeking asylum back to Mexico, where they would have to wait for months to appear in tent courts on the U.S. side of the border. More than 67,000 people were enrolled in the program and forced to live in Mexican border towns, waiting for their day in U.S. court. The program was intended to prevent migrants who illegally cross the border from automatically being released into the U.S., where they would wait years to appear in court and only then have the chance to claim asylum.

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Democrats opposed the Trump initiative, and Biden vowed as a candidate to end it. House Democrats who toured a massive outdoor camp across the border from Brownsville, Texas, in 2020 lamented the slum-like conditions in Mexico, where those turned away and forced to remain in Mexico before having their day in U.S. tent court had insufficient clean water, improper sanitation systems, and a lack of medical care.

DHS Secretary Alejandro Mayorkas concluded earlier this year that the Remain in Mexico program "had mixed effectiveness in achieving several of its central goals and ... experienced significant challenges," including the fact that the number of families coming across the border illegally had increased under the program, which was intended to deter people.

Biden first suspended the MPP in his first days in office. In June, it was formally dismantled, but Missouri and Texas sued to reinstate it. In August, the Supreme Court ordered it to be reinstated, but the Biden administration did not take action and instead moved in October to shutter the program again but in a way that would be legally justifiable. It is being reinstated now to comply with the highest court's order.

The program was rolled out as a growing number of migrant families were arriving at the southern border in 2018 and attempts to “meter” how many people could apply for asylum at the ports of entry per day could not meet the number of people arriving.

The government cannot detain families in immigration custody for more than 20 days as the result of a court order known as the Flores Settlement Agreement to ensure children are not harmed in detention, making it impossible to hold families who illegally cross the border, as the courts are backlogged with more than 1.4 million cases waiting to be decided.

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Even while the program was in effect under Trump, border authorities released 375,000 people directly into the country. MPP had been intended to keep asylum-seekers from being let go into the U.S., but because so many thousands of people came across the border between crossings in 2019, the Border Patrol and Immigration and Customs Enforcement were quickly overwhelmed and unable to return everyone to Mexico.

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Tags: News, DHS, Border Crisis, Joe Biden, Donald Trump, Alejandro Mayorkas

Original Author: Anna Giaritelli

Original Location: Biden spending $24M on tent courts to hear asylum claims at border

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