Amid Border Crisis, Republicans Push to Reinstate 'Remain In Mexico'

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July 17, 2023

"Remain in Mexico" could once again be the law of the land if Senate Republicans have their way.

Sen. Marsha Blackburn (R., Tenn.) is spearheading an effort to formally reinstate the federal government’s Migrant Protection Protocols, commonly known as the "Remain in Mexico" policy, which required illegal immigrants seeking asylum at the southern border to stay in Mexico while awaiting immigration proceedings.

The Biden administration reversed this order in 2022, leading scores of migrants to surge across the border and eventually be released into the country, where federal authorities have no way of tracking them. Blackburn on Monday moved to revive the Trump-era policy via an amendment to the 2024 National Defense Authorization Act (NDAA), the Washington Free Beacon has learned.

The proposal is certain to draw support from Senate Republicans, who have rallied against the Biden administration’s lax border policies, blaming them for a historic surge in illegal immigration. But with Democrats in control of the Senate, a reinstatement of the "Remain in Mexico" policy could complicate efforts to pass the NDAA, the mandatory yearly spending bill that funds national security priorities. The House passed its own version of the NDAA on Monday over the objection of the Biden administration, which opposes a host of provisions that crack down on China and defund woke cultural initiatives.

Blackburn’s measure, a version of a bill she introduced in May, would effectively stop federal border authorities from permitting most migrants from entering America. Instead, they will be sent back to Mexico and assigned a court hearing date. Proponents say this policy is critical to ensuring illegal immigrants are not freely released into the country, where it is difficult for border authorities to track their whereabouts.

"An open border is one of our greatest national security threats, as migrant children are trafficked and suspected criminals and terrorists enter undetected," Blackburn told the Free Beacon. "We must take action now to curb child trafficking and stop the flow of illegal immigration into the United States."

In May, the Biden administration directed Customs and Border Protection to release migrants into America "without court dates or the ability to track them," according to NBC News. With migrants arriving at the border "at levels not seen in more than two decades," the Biden administration’s decision to release them into the country has emerged as a top concern among border hawks.

Blackburn is pushing a second border amendment that would require DNA tests to determine the relationship between illegal immigrants and any children arriving with them at the border. The Biden administration also reversed the policy earlier in the year, with critics warning this would make it easier for human traffickers to move migrant children into America. The amendment is a revamped version of a June law that Blackburn spearheaded with the support of 10 other Republican senators.

The measure is meant to address growing concerns in Congress that migrant children released into the country are being illegally put to work, often in the sex trade. A record number of 152,000 unaccompanied minors were seen by Customs and Border Protection in 2022, with another 324,000 in the last 26 months, the Free Beacon reported in May.