Mexico opposes restart of U.S. 'Remain in Mexico' immigration policy

FILE PHOTO: A section of the border wall between Mexico and the United States is seen, as pictured from Tijuana, Mexico August 1, 2022. REUTERS/Jorge Duenes/File Photo

MEXICO CITY (Reuters) -The Mexican government said on Monday it is opposed to a possible restart of the U.S. immigration policy known as "Remain in Mexico" which required asylum seekers to wait for U.S. hearings in Mexico.

President Joe Biden has sought to end the program, which had been introduced by the Trump administration and is currently suspended.

But U.S. states such as Texas and Missouri filed a lawsuit to keep the program active and in December a U.S. judge paused Biden's attempt, saying the Department of Homeland Security had failed to adequately explain why the policy was ineffective and should be scrapped.

Mexico's foreign ministry did not state its reasons for its opposition. Activists argue the policy, officially called Migrant Protection Protocols (MPP), leaves migrants in dangerous border cities where they face threats of kidnapping and extortion.

If the Mexican government remains firm in its opposition, U.S. officials would likely have to consider whether asylum seekers can stay in the United States while their claims are evaluated or make other arrangements to remove them from the country.

Some 74,000 migrants went through Mexico under the program when former President Donald Trump was in power, the foreign ministry said. Under Biden, that number is just 7,500.

Marsha Espinosa, a spokesperson for the U.S. Department of Homeland Security, said in a statement to Reuters on Monday that the Biden Administration will keep trying to terminate MPP through the courts.

"Our ability to implement MPP pursuant to court order has always been contingent on the government of Mexico's willingness to accept returns under MPP," added Espinosa.

The Biden administration has sought alternatives to reduce the influx of migrants to the U.S. southern border, including a program allowing some Cubans, Haitians, Nicaraguans and Venezuelans to enter through an appointment system.

According to U.S. officials, the program has seen some success as the number of migrants from those countries caught crossing the border dropped off sharply from December to January.

Human rights organizations have pushed for other nationalities to be included.

(Reporting by Kylie Madry; Additional reporting by Ted Hesson in Washington; Editing by David Alire Garcia and Edwina Gibbs)

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