Photo by Matt Barnard

President Biden came into office promising a “fair, orderly, and humane immigration system.” While his Administration has taken important steps toward that goal — including fighting for a pathway to citizenship for undocumented immigrants and undoing the Africa and Muslim bans — the President has failed to uphold his promise at a critical point: The border. The Administration has continued to use the pandemic to summarily expel asylum-seeking families and adults from the border, a policy that permitted the recent mistreatment and abuse of Haitians seeking safety. Most recently, the Biden administration has failed to fight for the complete end of the Remain in Mexico program.

The Remain in Mexico program is a Trump-era policy that forced asylum seekers to wait in Mexico while U.S. officials reviewed their case for asylum. Under the program, children experienced violence, family separation, and sham court proceedings that denied them due process. We applauded the Biden Administration for suspending the program on Day One, allowing those with active cases to enter the United States, and for formally ending the program in June. And yet, in mid-October, the Administration notified a federal court that it is taking steps to reimplement the Remain in Mexico program as soon as mid-November.

So, what happened? The states of Texas and Missouri sued the Biden Administration over its decision to end the Remain in Mexico program and a federal judge decided in their favor, saying that the Biden Administration hadn’t sufficiently explained why it ended the program. The Administration appealed this decision all the way to the Supreme Court — and lost. The Court said the government had to abide by the earlier ruling and act in good faith to reinstate Remain in Mexico.

However, the Biden Administration had options. Most of all, the Department of Homeland Security (DHS) could have — and should have — written a new memo to more fully explain why it ended the Remain in Mexico program. Importantly, this new memo could have explained not only the logistical nightmare of the program, but its toll on human life and dignity. An amicus brief joined by First Focus on Children and other child advocacy organizations outlines story after story of the danger and indignity children and their families faced in Mexico. Unfortunately, while DHS has announced that it will issue a new termination memo, the Administration has offered no details or timeline for how quickly it will again rescind Remain in Mexico. It has, however, laid out a clear timeline for restarting this policy that inflicted so much harm on children and families.

There is no lawful, safe, or humane way to turn children back into danger. Ending the Remain in Mexico policy was the right thing to do, and the Administration must act quickly to end it once and for all.

But ending cruel policies is the least our government can do. We have long positioned our nation as the beacon on a hill, a safe haven for those in danger. However, with policies like Remain in Mexico and expulsions under Title 42, our country fails to live up to those ideals. U.S. border policy must prioritize the safety and well-being of children without compromise. The only legal and humane way forward is for the government to fully restore our asylum system and provide children and families a safe place to live in the United States, access to lawyers, family unity, and a fair and just chance to seek safety. Anything less is less than kids deserve.