Former President Donald Trump’s “remain in Mexico” policy to force some asylum seekers to wait in Mexico for their asylum hearings, formally known as the Migrant Protection Protocols (MPP), was both inhumane and a failure. But recently, Fox News anchor Bret Baier repeatedly claimed that President Joe Biden could reinstate the program through executive order as an alternative to the bipartisan border deal that Republicans demanded before they blocked it. Baier is mistaken, however, as Mexico has stated that it will not participate in the program again.
Fox News anchor Bret Baier repeatedly claimed that Biden could simply reinstate Trump’s “remain in Mexico” program
On January 26, Baier said: “People are definitely blaming Republicans for killing the deal in the crib before it gets out. But the president could have gone back to ‘remain in Mexico’ as an executive order.”
On January 30, Baier complained that Biden “reversed Trump policies” including “‘remain in Mexico,’ day one,” as part of “a series of executive orders that changed the policy that clearly was working under the Trump administration.”
Baier reiterated this point during a February 5 interview with Sen. Kyrsten Sinema (I-AZ), saying, “If today he said, ‘Let’s go back and reverse that again,’ remain in Mexico … you could do it without this bill.”
And after Senate Republicans killed the bill that they had fought for, Baier asked Sen. Mark Kelly (D-AZ) on February 7: “Is there anything preventing President Biden from going down to the border -- and he hasn't done that -- and saying, ‘Listen, they didn't give me everything I want and they didn't do the bill. But I have things I can do and here it is,’ ‘remain in Mexico.’ … You know, do it by executive order. What's preventing him from doing that tomorrow?”
Mexico has refused to participate in the program again
The thing about the “remain in Mexico” policy is that it requires Mexico’s cooperation to host asylum seekers until their hearings in the U.S. take place. After Trump initially got Mexico’s cooperation to expand MPP by threatening to impose tariffs on Mexican goods in 2019, the Mexican government announced in February 2023 that it is opposed to any future policies resembling that program, with Mexico’s Foreign Ministry stating: “Regarding the possible implementation of this policy for the third time, the Ministry of Foreign Affairs, on behalf of the Government of Mexico, expresses its rejection of the U.S. government's intention to return individuals processed under the program to Mexico.”
Department of Homeland Security spokesperson Marsha Espinosa explained in response that “our ability to implement MPP … has always been contingent on the government of Mexico's willingness to accept returns under MPP.”
“Remain in Mexico” was also both a failure and inhumane
ABC News explained that the Trump administration implemented “remain in Mexico” as “a deterrent to preempt invalid asylum claims.” It also noted that “the protocols have been applied only to a small fraction of overall border crossers, undermining claims of MPP's effectiveness.”
The Texas Tribune further explained that the program failed to give asylum seekers the ability to prove their claims:
According to an analysis by TRAC, between 2019 and 2021, less than 2% of completed MPP cases ended with a person being granted asylum. So far under the Biden administration, 27 people have been granted asylum under MPP. By comparison, 50% of cases of migrants already in the U.S. with an asylum case have won their case.
Human rights groups have also issued reports showing that the people sent to Mexico to wait out their hearings were put at high risk of crime, injury, and death. That same Texas Tribune article also reported that “Human Rights First, a New York-based organization, recorded 1,544 cases of killings, rapes and kidnappings of migrants who were forced to remain in Mexico between MPP’s launch in January 2019 and January 2021, when the Biden administration initially suspended the policy.”
On January 18, Human Rights Watch issued a letter to the Mexican government urging it not to agree to participate in any program similar to “remain in Mexico.” The letter noted that “migrants who are expelled from the US to Mexico often suffer kidnapping, extortion, assault, and other serious abuses at the hands of criminal groups and corrupt officials.”