A group of lawmakers urged US President Joe Biden to cancel the expansion of the “Stay in Mexico” program, which now also forces Haitians seeking asylum to stay in Mexico while their cases in the United States are resolved.
The group, led by Democratic Senator Bob Menéndez and congresswoman from the same party Verónica Escobar, made their requests in a letter sent to Biden.
In the letter, legislators from both houses of Congress expressed “alarm” over the resumption by the Biden government of “Stay in Mexico”, created by former President Donald Trump (2017-2021), and said they were “especially disappointed “ with the expansion of the program.
Biden repealed this year “Stay in Mexico”, but a federal judge invalidated that attempt to end that policy and ordered the Executive to resume it.
In addition, the Biden Administration decided to introduce a series of changes to the program, which now includes Haitian migrants, who in many cases after spending years in different Latin American countries have decided to undertake the trip to the United States.
The Government has also established that migrants can only access a lawyer for 24 hours when they are in the custody of US authorities, the legislators denounce in their letter.
According to the letter, the number of ports on the common border from where US authorities expel asylum seekers to Mexico has expanded and, in some cases, Mexican shelters in those areas do not have enough space.
Likewise, senators and congressmen are “concerned” by the lack of action of Biden who has not announced any plan to prioritize the asylum cases of those who were expelled to Mexico during the Trump administration and who are still in the neighboring country.
“These decisions suggest that your Administration has made the decision to normalize and expand a cruel ‘deterrent’ policy that does not really address the root causes of migration,” the lawmakers say in their letter.
The letter is signed by 13 senators, including Alex Padilla from California, Ray Luján from New Mexico and the leftist Bernie Sanders from Vermont, as well as 23 members of the Lower House, including Jesús “Chuy” García from Illinois, Joaquín Castro from Texas and Alexandria Ocasio-Cortez from New York.
All the signatories are from the Democratic Party or vote with that political force, so the letter puts pressure on Biden from his own ranks.
When it was first implemented, between January 2019 and February 2021, the “Stay in Mexico “program caused some 68,000 people to be sent to Mexico while they waited for their asylum cases to be resolved in the United States.
Of those people who had to return to Mexico, some 1,500 suffered violence, including murder, rape, and kidnapping, according to the Human Rights First organization.