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Supreme Court sides with the Biden administration in 'Remain in Mexico' case

The U.S. Supreme Court
Kent Nishimura
Los Angeles Times via Getty

Updated June 30, 2022 at 11:39 AM ET

The U.S. Supreme Court handed the Biden administration a victory, allowing it to rescind the Trump-era "Remain in Mexico" policy.

The vote was 5-4. Chief Justice John Roberts wrote the court's opinion and was joined by Justice Brett Kavanaugh and the court's three liberals. Justices Clarence Thomas, Samuel Alito, Neil Gorsuch and Amy Coney Barrett dissented.

The Trump-era policy required asylum seekers, mainly from central and south America, to either be detained in the U.S. or sent to Mexico where they have lived in squalid camps while they wait for months or years to have their asylum claims reviewed.

Last June the Biden administration tried to end the policy, formally known as the Migrant Protection Protocols. But federal district Judge Matthew Kacsmaryk, a Trump appointee, ordered the administration to restart the program, and the Fifth Circuit Court of Appeals agreed. On Thursday, the Supreme Court sided with the administration.

A major criticism of the Remain in Mexico program was that even the Trump administration could not meet the demands of its own policy. The reason is that Congress has never allocated enough money to detain all of the asylum claimants. In fact, no administration has been able to comply with this aspect of federal immigration law since it took effect in 1996.

The Biden administration has a new plan which would delegate asylum claims to specially trained customs and border control officers instead of to the immigration courts, where there are already 400,000 pending cases. If asylum claimants are granted protection, they may remain in the U.S. and bypass the immigration courts. For those denied asylum, their cases would be reviewed by an immigration judge within 90 days, prior to deportation.

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Nina Totenberg is NPR's award-winning legal affairs correspondent. Her reports air regularly on NPR's critically acclaimed newsmagazines All Things Considered, Morning Edition, and Weekend Edition.
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