President Joe Biden’s administration reimposed President Donald Trump’s “Remain in Mexico” policy on Thursday, claiming it had no choice but to do so.
White House press secretary Jen Psaki expressed the disappointment of the administration, saying it was “not our preference.”
Psaki made her comments during Monday’s daily White House briefing.
Still, Psaki defended the Biden administration’s actions and said they were making the Trump-era policy more “humane.”
A reporter asked Psaki on Monday, “Immigrant rights activists say that the idea that the United States government is going to be able to facilitate lawyers for migrants who want them is an empty promise.”
“What can you say to assure those people that, in fact, you’ll live by that commitment?” the reporter asked.
Psaki replied, “I would say first to all of these people that it is not our preference to be reimplementing and reinstituting the Migrant Protection Protocol.”
“We are doing that because of a court order and a legal requirement to do so,” Psaki explained. “We have put in place a number of changes from the Department of Homeland Security (DHS) to improve some humanitarian components, but we still feel that the program is inefficient, inhumane, and we did not eagerly reimplement it.”
The “Remain in Mexico” policy requires asylum seekers to stay in Mexico throughout the application process and until their U.S. court date.
When Trump began this policy in 2019, Biden harshly criticized it.
Biden promised to end “Remain in Mexico” if elected.
In June, DHS Secretary Alejandro Mayorkas ended the policy, though Biden had already suspended it on his first day in the White House.
A federal judge in Texas later overruled Mayorkas’ termination of the policy in the summer. The Biden administration tried to end it in October.
Now the administration has brought it back.
TIME reports that, despite Psaki’s claims about changes being made, “the program is virtually identical as it was under Trump.”
“… both versions promise quick immigration proceedings, access to safe and secure shelters, a work permit and access to health care in Mexico. Both versions also promise that particularly vulnerable people, like those with a disability, are excluded from MPP.”
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