In the midst of a surge in illegal aliens coming to the southern border, the American people demanded answers. I’m not referring to the current border crisis but the situation in 2018-2019 when I was chief of staff and then acting secretary of the Department of Homeland Security (DHS).
In order to solve this problem, we knew that the same old failed policies were not going to stem the flow. We needed new and innovative solutions grounded in law.
The solution was the implementation of the Migrant Protection Protocols (MPP), or “Remain in Mexico” policy. Although it is disappointing that the Supreme Court ruled Thursday the Biden administration could terminate MPP, the majority upheld the legality of the policy and made no attempt to refute its success at securing the border.
We developed and implemented MPP because of the dire situation we found ourselves in from 2018-2019. Loopholes in the law and a disastrous court order that cartels and smugglers figured out could nullify DHS’s clear policy of enforcing our immigration laws was becoming commonplace. After years of the Obama administration’s lax border enforcement policies, including the large-scale practice of catch-and-release, the immigration courts were overwhelmed.
With Congress unwilling to close these loopholes, the Trump administration pored over the immigration laws to find a solution. The result was the creation of MPP.
Once DHS had MPP up and running, it became an overnight success in deterring illegal immigration. Nearly all of the illegal aliens apprehended at the border are economic migrants who do not qualify for asylum. But before MPP, just saying the words “credible fear” was a ticket into the United States to wait for an immigration court hearing that was years away.
The release is exactly what these illegal aliens wanted, allowing them to reunite with family members already in the country, most likely unlawfully, and to work.
MPP was a game changer because it prevented these economic migrants from obtaining their goal of being allowed into the United States pending the adjudication of their claim. While more than 70% of aliens apprehended at the border passed this lower credible-fear threshold, fewer than 15% actually met the statutory definition to be granted asylum.
Well aware that they would not get immigration relief and unable to have the opportunity to disappear into the interior of the United States, many of these illegal aliens simply chose to go back home rather than wait in Mexico. Critically, this deterrent factor sent a clear message to those thinking of taking the journey north that the effort would fail.
MPP is one of the most effective immigration enforcement tools ever developed.
While the Supreme Court ruled that the Biden administration could end MPP, an administration serious about securing the border would not terminate this program. MPP remains highly popular with Border Patrol agents and the American people.
If the Biden administration insists on ending MPP, it needs to quickly implement a policy that actually works, not one that speeds up the processing of illegal aliens to be released into the country.
Chad Wolf served as the former Acting Secretary of the Department of Homeland Security and currently serves as the Executive Director, Chief Strategy Officer & Chair of the Center for Homeland Security & Immigration at the America First Policy Institute
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