Border tension: Remain in Mexico policy confusion, border bridge shutdown

Paso Del Norte international bridge in El Paso was temporarily closed on Friday and part of Saturday in response to a federal appellate court blocking the Migrant Protection Protocols, also known as the Remain in Mexico policy. Confusion occurred as the halting of the program was short-lived due to the fact that the Ninth Circuit Court of Appeals stayed its own order.

The Remain in Mexico program for those seeking asylum in America, mostly from Central American countries, has been very successful, thanks to cooperation from the Mexican government. It should be noted that the bridge was closed Friday due to more than a hundred mostly Cuban migrants tried to cross after the court ruling. Naturally, the very liberal Ninth Circuit Court of Appeals is intent on shutting down any success on curbing illegal immigration. When word got out about the original appellate court order blocking the program the response of migrants was immediate. Authorities on the border shut down the international bridge as a response to the mass migration.

The temporary closing of downtown’s Paso Del Norte international bridge capped off a day of confusion and chaos after a federal appellate court blocked the Migrant Protection Protocols, one of President Trump’s signature immigration policies. But the end of the program, also called “Remain in Mexico”, was short-lived after the same court, the Ninth Circuit Court of Appeals, stayed its own order.

Word of the reversal came after hundreds of migrants in Ciudad Juárez had gathered at the foot of the international bridge with the hopes of entering the United States. Customs and Border Protection officers then halted northbound vehicular traffic and subsequently shut down pedestrian crossings as well. El Paso Police Department officers cordoned off several blocks near the bridge with red police tape and several people were turned back on the most direct route to the PDN bridge and instead told to take a longer route to the nearby Stanton bridge, which was operating normally and closes at 11 pm.

“[Customs and Border Protection] officers stopped the flow of northbound traffic at the Paso Del Norte bridge at approximately 7:20 p.m. Friday in an effort to eliminate the ability for a large group of migrants that had formed on the Mexican side of the border to illegally and forcefully surge through the ports of entry,” CBP spokesperson Roger Maier said in an email. “This step helps CBP ensure safety of travelers, facilities and CBP employees.”

The bridge was re-opened Saturday. While immigrants rights groups were hopeful that the original order ending the policy would allow migrants into the United States, thanks to the Trump administration’s quick response, the order was put on hold pending further consideration by the court. Additional filings are due Tuesday. Groups like the ACLU are already calling the stay of the order a temporary setback.

Judy Rabinovitz, the special counsel at the ACLU’s Immigrants’ Rights Project who argued the case, said Friday’s latest ruling is a limited setback.

“This is a temporary step and does not change the fact that courts have ruled multiple times against this illegal policy. We will continue working to permanently end this unspeakably cruel policy,” she said in a statement.

This issue is expected to go all the way to the Supreme Court.

Since the Department of Homeland Security rolled out the Remain in Mexico policy in January 2019, over 60,000 people have been sent back to seven Mexican border cities. Currently, there are about 25,000 people in the program. Robert Perez, CBP’s deputy commissioner, said in a court filing on Friday that ending the program would place an enormous strain on border facilities and personnel, which is why it was put into action in the first place. The program stops migrants who would otherwise be released into the United States and left on their own until the date of their immigration hearing.

One pastor in Nuevo Laredo who oversees two shelters said he was fielding phone calls asking if migrants should storm the bridge in order to cross over the border. Pastor Lorenzo Ortiz said, “There was a little bit of a panic.” He advised them to just wait, as any illegal action would jeopardize their cases.

While migrants vulnerable to crimes like kidnapping, rape, robbery, and human trafficking may face violence on the Mexican border as they await entry into the United States, such large numbers of migrants seeking asylum overruns the resources on the American side of the border. It poses a national security risk and illegal immigration exploits immigration law. Much of this could be alleviated if Congress would do its job and write legislation to reform immigration law.

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Jazz Shaw 10:01 PM on June 07, 2023