The Department of Homeland Security has revealed fewer than 300 asylum seekers were returned to Mexico under the Migrant Protection Protocols program in December, vindicating concerns from immigration hawks that President Joe Biden would gut the program despite a court order.
In total, 267 migrants were enrolled in the program last month, according to a DHS document first obtained by Fox News. None from Mexico or the Northern Triangle—the areas with the highest migrant activity—were enrolled in the program.
Commonly known as the "Remain in Mexico" policy, MPP was first implemented under former president Donald Trump in 2019 as a response to rising migration on the southern border. Biden repealed MPP during his first month in office, although court orders forced his administration to reimplement the policy in November. Under Trump, about 68,000 migrants were placed in Mexico under the program. According to a study from the left-leaning Migration Policy Institute, Remain in Mexico correlated with a drop in migration through Mexico.
"MPP is still dead, and the court-ordered relaunch is all for show. We know it and so do migrants and smugglers," said R.J. Hauman, director of government relations and communications at the Federation for American Immigration Reform. "Border numbers are still through the roof. … The Biden administration isn’t acting in good faith—they're mocking the courts."
Proponents of Remain in Mexico point to the sharp drop in southern border apprehensions following the expansion of the program under Trump, arguing it forced the Mexican government to assist in stopping migration. As the Washington Free Beacon reported in October, however, those who called for the reimplementation of the policy were overly optimistic it would curb illegal immigration given the opportunities Biden had to undermine the program.
The DHS document reported by Fox News outlines exemptions asylum seekers can claim to avoid enrollment in the program. Migrants not enrolled are typically given court dates and released into the interior of the United States, a practice critics call "catch and release."
According to the document, asylum seekers can be unenrolled from MPP should government officials identify "particular vulnerabilities" such as claiming they are gay or transgender. All asylum seekers who claim they have a fear of being returned to Mexico may be provided a legal representative or consultant.
The Biden administration has said it would comply with the court order to restart MPP "in good faith"—language that provided broad wiggle room to change the program from what it looked liked under the previous administration. In January, the administration expanded MPP to apply to the Rio Grande Valley sector, which has seen some of the largest number of border crossings in the last year.
The largest influx of migrants at the southern border in recorded history followed Biden's repeal of MPP, with Border Patrol arresting 1.6 million in the 2021 fiscal year. A recent court filing from Customs and Border Protection revealed 55,626 migrants were released into the United States in December.