The Trump administration has asked the Supreme Court to rule on the legality of its “Remain in Mexico” policy that was suspended last week by an appeals court. The 9th Circuit Court of Appeals struck down the policy except in Texas and New Mexico.
Also known as the “Migrant Protection Protocols” (MPP), the policy requires migrants asking for asylum to wait in Mexico for their court appearance. It’s been a vital tool for border security and the Pentagon fears that if the Supreme Court refuses to act, suspension of the MPP, which ends March 12, would mean tens of thousands of illegals and asylum-seekers who are in Mexico rushing the border.
Officials say it has been vital in bringing down numbers at the border, shrinks down the time to get cases processed, and has reduced the “pull factor” bringing migrants north. Specifically, it helps end “catch and release” by which migrants were detained and then released into the interior of the U.S. But opponents say keeping migrants in Mexico exposes them to the danger of violence and kidnapping.
The court agreed with that argument and struck it down, but hours later agreed to suspend the decision, as the administration said that thousands of migrants would flood the ports of entry. CBP ended up closing or suspending operations at multiple locations in response. The Justice Department had said Friday that at least 25,000 asylum-seekers subject to the policy are currently waiting in Mexico and expressed “massive and irreparable national-security of public-safety concerns” if it was halted.
The court asked the parties to respond by Monday.
The Pentagon is sending a Crisis Response Force to the border ahead of the ruling, anticipating the surge. The troops would “support U.S. Customs and Border Protection by placing temporary barriers and providing protection for border officers.”
The troops are from the 687th Engineer Construction Company and the 519th Military Police Battalion, both from Fort Polk, La., according to the DoD. Additionally, the Texas governor has ordered the Texas National Guard to deploy troops from the 136th Maneuver Enhancement Brigade to the Brownsville area to do “quick reaction force training” in support of CBP.
More than 5,000 active-duty troops and members of the National Guard are already stationed at the southern border to support CBP in securing ports and constructing the border wall.
Given the threat to national security, there’s a good chance the court will give the administration a quick hearing. Whether the administration prevails or not is another question. The appeals court ruled the MPP “invalid in its entirety” due to its inconsistencies with existing laws. But the full appellate court said it was legal in Texas and New Mexico. Since the court making the ruling was the San Francisco-based 9th Circuit, those “inconsistencies” may be a mirage. The appeals court ignored other factors that made the policy necessary.
If the policy is struck down, it’s going to get very messy at the border.