The Biden administration plans to launch a tax-funded, US immigration legal services program for immigrants affected by the Remain in Mexico policy. In December last year, President Biden was forced to resurrect the controversial, Trump-era Remain in Mexico policy following a court ruling. The rule has since been expanded to San Diego.
The Legal Access at the Border (LAB) program will reportedly make it easier for immigrants, sent back to Mexico to await the outcome of their US immigration or asylum application, to access legal services.
It’s understood that the LAB program will launch in seven border cities, including: Brownsville, Calexico, Eagle Pass, El Paso, Laredo, Nogales and San Diego. Each of these cities has Migrant Protection Protocols (MPP) – also known as the Remain in Mexico program – enforced.
Legal aid organizations wary
According to a report published by Fox News, legal aid organizations are said to be wary of providing assistance to immigrants because of MPP, which some believe presents a humanitarian issue.
Official data shows that US immigration authorities detained more than 1.7 million immigrants attempting to cross the US-Mexico border in fiscal year 2021, which ended in September. This represents the highest figure since President Ronald Reagan’s sweeping US immigration reform bill was passed in 1986.
The new LAB program will be overseen by the US Justice Department’s Executive Office for Immigration Review (EOIR) once it’s officially launched. The Biden administration plans to launch the program in the next 60 days.
It’s understood that the LAB program will mainly offer legal assistance, with contractors explaining options to immigrants that will allow them to remain in the US while deportation orders remain pending. Advice will also be given on general court practices and procedures that individuals should be aware of prior to a court appearance.
The launch of the LAB program will form part of the Biden administration’s wider Access EOIR initiative, which the US Justice Department announced in September 2021. The initiative is aiming to provide non-US citizens and their representatives more resources for the legal challenges they will face when trying to enter the US.
In his first 100 days in office, Biden signed a series of US immigration-related executive orders, many of which focused on scrapping Trump-era immigration policies, such as the Remain in Mexico rule.
Biden’s new orders resulted in a 60% drop in Immigration and Customs Enforcement (ICE) arrests, according to the Migration Policy Institute.
However, Biden was forced to reinstate MPP following a federal court order last year. A statement issued by the Department of Homeland Security (DHS) at the time, said: “As required by a federal court order, the Department of Homeland Security has been working in good faith to re-implement the Migrant Protection Protocols program.”
“Today, in coordination with the Departments of State and Justice, DHS announced key changes to MPP to address humanitarian concerns raised by the Government of Mexico and shared by the US Government,” the statement added.
Unlawful presence in US no longer a reason to deport
DHS Secretary, Alejandro Mayorkas, recently said that ‘unlawful presence’ in the US would no longer be considered a reason to deport immigrants.
During an address at the US Conference of Mayors, Mayorkas said: “Rather, we will allocate our efforts, we will allocate our resources on those individuals who present a current public safety threat, a threat to national security, or a threat to our border security, and that is a very important principle.”
“I will be coming to you and asking you to reconsider your position of non-cooperation and see how we can work together. And I may not succeed initially in a wholesale reversal of your position, but I am willing to work in increments with you because the public’s safety, the public’s well-being, for which we are all charged, is I think at issue,” the DHS Secretary added.
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