The ongoing battle over immigration reform and policies regarding the treatment of migrants in the United States has intensified in recent months. President Joe Biden is demanding a sweeping overhaul of the immigration system and elimination of programs implemented by his predecessor, which he cites as denying migrants legal rights, humanitarian protection, and their ability to seek asylum in the United States.
The administration in September continued efforts to protect hundreds of thousands of immigrants, who arrived in the United States as children, from deportation through a formal rule pertaining to the Deferred Action for Childhood Arrivals (DACA) program.
Created by an executive branch memorandum by President Barack Obama in 2012, the DACA policy protects eligible undocumented immigrants from deportation and allows them to obtain a driver’s license, Social Security number, and a work permit. DACA was intended to be a temporary solution until Congress could implement permanent legislation, which never happened. More than 825,000 immigrants, colloquially referred to as Dreamers, have enrolled in the DACA program since 2012.
President Donald Trump’s administration terminated the program in 2017, stating the policy provides circumvention of immigration laws and was an unconstitutional decision by the executive branch. The move ignited multiple lawsuits and state and U.S. Supreme Court cases arguing the legality of the DACA program.
Ultimately, the Supreme Court determined in June 2020 that the administration’s termination was arbitrary, allowing DACA to continue, which it did, until a federal judge in Texas ruled the policy illegal in July 2021.
Officials issued the formal rule recently in response to a judge in the U.S. District Court in Houston, who ruled that the DACA program is unlawful, stating the Obama administration did not follow proper requirements when it launched the program in 2012 and directed the Department of Homeland Security (DHS) to stop accepting new applications.
According to the judge’s ruling, the Obama administration did not seek public feedback as required when initiating the measure, therefore making the DACA program illegal. The judge’s decision does allow two-year renewals of those currently enrolled in DACA to continue, but new enrollments are now prohibited. The Biden administration is appealing the judge’s decision.
What Are the President’s Plans Regarding Immigration Programs?
The revamped proposal for the DACA program institutes the federal regulatory process, specifically addressing the judge’s concern by soliciting public feedback. The proposed new regulation was published in September for a 60-day comment period in the Federal Register. Though the new effort will not be law, Biden hopes the proposal will result in court approval.
The administration has been fighting an uphill battle with Congress regarding immigration in general. Recently, the president announced a reconciliation package that details plans to set aside $100 billion for changes to immigration policies and overhaul what he characterizes as a broken immigration system. The investment, he said, would include expanding legal representation, reducing backlogs of applications, improving political asylum processes, and facilitating border processing. However, these new provisions are required to adhere to the Senate’s reconciliation rules, which could prove additionally challenging.
Thus far, Democrats have attempted to implement sweeping immigration changes in the bill but have hit many roadblocks by Republicans in the process. Chamber Adviser Senate Parliamentarian Elizabeth MacDonough has rejected Democrats’ previous two proposals, stating that they did not comply with the Byrd rule, which limits specific types of measures allowed in a reconciliation bill. Democrats’ proposals would have allowed millions of undocumented immigrants to seek permanent residency in the United States.
Is the “Remain in Mexico Protocol” Still in Effect?
The Biden administration recently submitted a second compliance report regarding the reinstatement of the Migrant Protection Protocols (MPP). Also known as the Remain in Mexico program, MPP was initiated by Trump in 2019 and ordered immigrants to stay in Mexico while seeking asylum in the United States. Since that time, approximately 70,000 migrants were returned to Mexico to await court hearings. According to the American Immigration Council, some waited months and even years for a hearing with an immigration judge, and approximately 25,000 are still encamped there.
A vocal critic of the MPP program, Biden fulfilled a campaign promise and terminated it earlier this year. However, the Supreme Court in August backed a Texas judge’s earlier ruling that the program is restored, citing the president had ended it improperly and directing the administration to resume the program by mid-November. However, restoring the program does hinge on approval by the Mexican government, and the two countries are in discussions, though they have not yet reached an agreement.
Although required to comply with the court’s decision to reinstate Remain in Mexico, the Biden administration further announced renewed efforts to rescind the program and did so with a recent DHS memorandum. According to DHS officials, the memo is more comprehensive, addresses the failures of the previous memo, and continues to argue that the Remain in Mexico program denies due processes and humane protections of migrants, while also restricting the administration’s ability to overhaul the immigration system. The administration hopes the 39-page memo laying out their justification for ending the program will convince the courts to reverse their rulings.
The decision regarding Remain in Mexico is not solely that of the American government. In order to implement the program, the United States must rely on Mexico’s cooperation to host those awaiting asylum decisions. However, the Mexican government has voiced concerns, including lack of due process, legal rights and representation for asylum seekers, and their personal safety. Since the program took effect, there have been more than 1,500 reported cases of murder, kidnapping, trafficking, extortion and rape in the migrant camps along the border.
Philadelphia Immigration Lawyers at MC Law Group, LLC Advocate for Dreamers and Migrants Seeking Asylum in the United States
Thousands of foreign nationals seek refuge and hope for a better life in the United States each year. The process can be long and arduous, but the experienced Philadelphia immigration lawyers at MC Law Group can help you every step of the way. Call us at 215-496-0690 or contact us online today to schedule a free consultation. Located in Philadelphia, we serve clients throughout the tri-state area, including Pennsylvania, New Jersey, and nationwide.