Trump-era Stay in Mexico program under new scrutiny ahead of Supreme Court ruling

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A migrant attempted suicide this month while waiting in a shelter in Monterrey, Mexico, for an asylum decision in the United States – the first known suicide attempt of Joe Biden’s presidency under of the Trump-era “Stay in Mexico” program it was forced to restart, TSTIME has learned.

What we are looking at: Biden officials are awaiting a ruling from the U.S. Supreme Court that they hope will allow them to end a program that advocates say puts migrants at risk. The decision could come tomorrow.

The big picture: “[S]Situations like this highlight endemic flaws” in the Migrant Protection Protocols (MPP) program, a Department of Homeland Security spokesperson told TSTIME.

  • While the administration has said it will improve protections for MPP enrollees, this incident reflects the stress migrants are still enduring while waiting — and holes in a system meant to detect reported cases.

Between the lines: The MPP is one of several Trump-era immigration policies that Biden had tried to dissolve — like the Title 42 public health order — but kept in place due to legal intervention or a potential reaction from within his party.

By the numbers: So far, at least 5,600 asylum seekers have been returned to Mexico since the MPP program was forced to restart in December, according to the tally by the United Nations International Organization for Migration (IOM), provided in TSTIME.

  • By comparison, the Trump administration sent about 70,000 asylum seekers back to Mexico to await court hearings between the start of the MPP in January 2019 and the suspension of the program after Biden took office.
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Details: The woman who attempted suicide has since been treated in a hospital and brought to the United States on medical bail, according to an internal US document viewed by TSTIME.

  • The woman had a history of mental health issues, including suicide attempts, IOM Mexico deputy chief Jeremy MacGillivray told TSTIME.
  • MacGillivray said screening protocols in the United States should be strengthened to prevent people with similar mental health conditions from being forced into the program.
  • It was not immediately clear which migratory path the woman had taken to seek entry to the US-Mexico border.

What they say : “DHS is aware of this incident and acted quickly to remove the individual from MPP upon being made aware of the situation,” a Department of Homeland Security spokesperson told TSTIME.

  • “While DHS is committed to mitigating as much harm as possible associated with MPP, situations like this highlight the endemic flaws that Secretary Mayorkas has identified with MPP in his memos.”
  • “As required by a court order, DHS shall implement the MPP in good faith while appealing this court order.”
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What we mean: News of the suicide attempt rocked other women at the shelter who messaged trusted advocates to share their concerns.

  • “It really shows the psychological damage this program inflicts on people,” a lawyer familiar with the situation told TSTIME on condition of anonymity.
  • The news comes as Reuters reports that three other asylum seekers placed in the MPP program were abducted in April.

How we got here: President Biden was forced by the courts to take over the MPP after ending the controversial Trump-era program in February 2021.

  • The policy has been lambasted by Democrats, international organizations such as the IOM and immigration advocates for putting migrants at risk.
  • As it continues its efforts to end the MPP, the Biden administration has promised to make the program safer. He used the MPP less aggressively than the previous administration, offered vaccines and exempted some vulnerable migrants.
  • Yet some migrants placed in the program continue to face physical and psychological dangers.
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Recently placed asylum seekers in the program are sent to several shelters in Monterrey more than in any other city – often transferred by IOM from other cities closer to the border such as Nuevo Laredo and Matamoros.

  • Conditions in the shelters vary, according to Savitri Arvey, policy adviser for the Migrant Rights and Justice program at the Women’s Refugee Commission, who recently visited the shelters.
  • Arvey told TSTIME that she met a handful of asylum seekers who should have been exempted and never sent back to Mexico, according to recent guidelines.

The bottom line: “The MPP people we serve suffer from anxiety, stress and a sense of hopelessness, and often helplessness,” said Blanca Lomeli, director of the Mexican branch of the HIAS refugee group, which provides mental health and other migrant services throughout Mexico. .

  • “The reality is that the extended stay in Mexico has a negative impact on their mental health,” added Lomeli,

If you or someone you know is considering suicide, contact the National Suicide Prevention Lifeline at 1-800-273-8255 (In Spanish : 1-888-628-9454; Deaf and hard of hearing: dial 711 then 1-800-273-8255) or Crisis text line by texting HOME to 741741.

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