DHS asks for help preventing family separations as ‘Remain in Mexico’ resumes

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The Department of Homeland Security is turning to the American people for help.

DHS announced Thursday that it is asking for the public to submit recommendations on how the government can avoid separating migrant families at the southern border as it reinstitutes the Trump-era “Remain in Mexico” policy.

“Public feedback will be used to help develop recommendations to President Biden on how to prevent the Federal Government from implementing in the future the cruel and inhumane practice of intentionally separating families at the border as a tool of deterrence,” DHS said in a statement, adding that comments would be accepted through Jan. 10.

“It is unconscionable to separate children from their parents as a means to deter migration,” said DHS Secretary Alejandro Mayorkas. “I have met with separated families and heard firsthand of the immense trauma they have suffered. We have an obligation to reunite separated families and ensure this cruel practice never happens again.”

The announcement comes one day after the administration removed the first two asylum seekers to Mexico under the restored “Remain in Mexico” protocols. While their nationalities were not revealed, the migrants were sent to Ciudad Juarez, Mexico, across the border from El Paso, Texas, according to the Associated Press.

An immigrant mother carries her children up the bank of the Rio Grande in Roma, Texas on April 30, 2021.
An immigrant mother carries her children up the bank of the Rio Grande in Roma, Texas, on April 30, 2021.
John Moore/Getty Images

The policy, formally known as the Migrant Protection Protocols, requires asylum seekers attempting to enter the US by crossing the southern border to wait in Mexico until their cases are heard.

Biden attempted to get rid of the policy several times, initially suspending it just hours after taking office in January. In June, Homeland Security Alejandro Mayorkas issued a memo formally ending the protocols.

Secretary of Homeland Security Alejandro Mayorkas
Homeland Security Secretary Alejandro Mayorkas promises “to reunite separated families” at the border.
AP Photo/Gregory Bull

However, Texas US District Judge Matthew Kacsmaryk ruled in August that the administration must make a “good faith” effort to reinstate the policy and enforce it until it had been properly rescinded and immigration officials had enough space to hold all detained illegal immigrants.

The White House has repeatedly placed blame on the court order for their decision to reinstate the policy, while slamming some of its provisions — such as separating families.

The Homeland Security Department headquarters in northwest Washington, on June 5, 2015.
The Department of Homeland Security is looking for public feedback on preventing the separation of migrant families before the return of the “Remain in Mexico” policy.
AP Photo/Susan Walsh

The administration did make some changes to the original protocols, including the offering of COVID-19 vaccines to all eligible migrants, as well as a vaccination requirement to re-enter the US. It is unclear at what point in the asylum process the jabs would be given.

Other changes include a commitment to complete proceedings within six months of an individual’s return to Mexico as well as providing more opportunities for asylum-seekers to secure legal counsel.

Children lie inside a pod at the main detention center for unaccompanied children in the Rio Grande Valley run by U.S. Customs and Border Protection (CBP), in Donna, Texas, March 30, 2021.
Unaccompanied migrant children lie inside a large cage in the US Customs and Border Protection detention center in Donna, Texas, on March 30, 2021.
AP Photo/Dario Lopez-Mills, Pool, File

In order to reinstate the policy, the US needed Mexico to approve plans to accept the asylum-seekers. The neighboring countries came to an agreement last week.

The new policy iteration will be enforced at seven ports of entry — San Diego and Calexico in California; Nogales in Arizona; and El Paso, Eagle Pass, Laredo, and Brownsville in Texas.

The return of the “Remain in Mexico” policy comes amid a historic year for border crossings into the US. Border Patrol agents encountered more than 1.7 million illegal immigrants at the Mexico border between October 2020 and September 2021 — the second-highest annual figure ever recorded.

Migrants under the Migrant Protection Protocols (MPP) program are delivered by agents of the U.S Border Patrol to agents of the National Migration Institute of Mexico at the Lerdo-Stanton International Bridge to continue with their asylum application, in El Paso, Texas.
President Biden suspended the Trump administration’s “Remain in Mexico” policy in his first month in office.
Jose Luis Gonzalez/REUTERS

In October, the most recent month for which statistics are available, just over 164,000 migrants were apprehended — the third consecutive month of decline since arrests hit their peak in July. Still, that amount is more than double the number of apprehensions in October of last year and more than three times the number of encounters in October 2019.

With Post wires

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