MPP was officially terminated
On June 1st, DHS formally terminated the Migrant Protection Protocols Program, also known as “Remain in Mexico.” MPP was a program set up under the Trump administration in 2019, which required asylum seekers to wait in Mexico for their immigration court date. Over 70,000 cases were enrolled into the program while it was in effect, and about 30,000 of those cases are still open. Under this program, thousands of migrants lived in tent cities in areas designated on the State Department “Do Not Travel” list and were often targets of organized crime, kidnapping, assault, and murder.
President Biden ended new enrollments into the program immediately after his inauguration, and began allowing small groups of asylum seekers under MPP to enter the country in late February. Just over 8,300 of these asylum seekers have been admitted into the U.S. to pursue their cases as of April 30, 2021.
Governor Abbott of Texas issued a disaster declaration that will pull licenses from facilities housing unaccompanied immigrant children
In a 5/31 proclamation, Governor Abbott of Texas declared a state of disaster in 34 counties and "for all state agencies affected by this disaster," citing his disapproval with the Biden Administration’s border policies. Among other things, the declaration has serious implications for unaccompanied children who are currently staying in state-licensed shelters. It directs officials to deny pending applications for new licenses, and limits renewals and starts a 90-day wind down for existing licenses.
There are 52 state-licensed facilities that will be affected by this order. About 25% of UCs currently in the custody of HHS -- 4,223 as of May 19 -- are sheltered in Texas. The rationale that Governor Abbott gives for the move is that "the unabated influx of individuals resulting from federal government policies threatens to negatively impact state-licensed residential facilities, including those that serve Texas children in foster care.”
This move by Governor Abbott is part of an unsettling trend of state governors refusing to offer aid to these vulnerable children. Governors Reynolds of Iowa, McMasters of South Carolina, Ricketts of Nebraska, Noem of South Dakota, Gordon of Wyoming, and Lee of Tennessee have all made public statements in recent months that they will not allow unaccompanied children to be placed in their states. The latest move from Texas is especially concerning since Texas has been housing such a large percentage of these kids already.
While several of these governors have alleged that placing unaccompanied migrant children into state facilities or foster care causes an undue burden on their state, it’s important to note that when the Office of Refugee Resettlement contracts with state-licensed facilities to house children, they provide federal funding. Interestingly enough, ORR doesn't even have any contracts with providers in most of these states that have refused to accept them. The unaccompanied children sent there likely would have gone to live with their own family members.
Chief ICE Attorney issued guidance that allows for broader prosecutorial discretion in immigration cases
The new guidance from principal ICE attorney John Trasviña would allow prosecutors greater discretion to dismiss cases. Some of the factors that prosecutors are allowed to consider include length of residence in the U.S., work history, family and community ties, and compelling humanitarian factors. The Biden administration sees this as another tool to be used in clearing the immigration court backlog that has surpassed 1.3 million cases.