After the brutal 2018 “zero tolerance” policy that separated children from their parents, the Trump administration last year introduced the Migrant Protection Protocols, or “return to Mexico,” forcing some 67,000 applicants to asylum to await their immigration hearings south of the border.
Politics have locked people into squalid makeshift camps controlled by gangs. But it has had the effect of drastically reducing flows and forcing thousands of migrants already at the border to turn around and return home.
Since the “return to Mexico” policy is not codified by regulation, it could be immediately canceled by the president-elect.
But the prospect of large numbers of migrants being suddenly taken to the United States, or detained in border facilities, would create a public relations nightmare for the new administration and almost certainly elicit fierce condemnation from restrictions on immigration and pro-immigrant activists. , for different reasons.
“The new administration is going to have to find a way to push back unrestricted and unauthorized migration with humane application while treating people seeking asylum in a speedy way that recognizes their legitimate claims,” said Michael Chertoff, secretary to Homeland Security during the Bush administration.
“It’s not going to be 10 minutes after the grand opening, everyone comes in,” Chertoff said.
Any misstep would threaten a rerun of 2014 and 2016, when the Obama administration scrambled to stem a chaotic influx of migrants from El Salvador, Guatemala and Honduras. Human rights groups were outraged when families and children were locked up and evictions were speeded up. Immigration extremists have attacked Mr. Obama for allowing tens of thousands of people to enter and remain in the United States while their asylum cases go to court, which can take years.
And while Mr Biden has said he will stop building a wall, Mr Trump’s flagship project, there is no indication his administration will refrain from deploying boots on the ground and sophisticated technology to capture border workers.