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Supreme Court allows Biden administration to roll back 'Remain In Mexico' policy

JUANA SUMMERS, HOST:

Now that the Biden administration can put an end to the Remain in Mexico policy, we wanted to find out what this will mean for the immigrants that the policy targeted. So we reached out to Marysol Castro, managing attorney at Diocesan Migrant and Refugee Services in El Paso, Texas. She represents immigrants who were affected by the Remain in Mexico policy. And I asked her to put into context how important today's decision is for the clients she serves. And just as a warning, she does describe violent acts, including sexual violence.

MARYSOL CASTRO: This is a huge decision. We're very excited about this. Since 2019, my clients have suffered the worst-case scenarios. They come from countries where they're escaping persecution from their own government. And they come to Juarez, here, the border town of El Paso. And Juarez is actually the most dangerous city in the world.

SUMMERS: These immigrants are not Mexican nationals. Can you tell us some about who these people are, why they're seeking asylum in the United States?

CASTRO: One of my clients, she actually left Cuba due to persecution. And when she arrived to Juarez, she was continuously getting harassed by a Mexican officer. And time after time, she continued to go to the port of entry and asked to be allowed into the country. They denied her every single time. So, eventually, she was brutally raped by this Mexican officer, and she ended up in the hospital needing several surgeries. Another of my clients, he was a military officer in Venezuela, and he was forced to be involved in the interrogations and tortures that the government was doing against the protesters. And he knew that he had to get out of that situation because he didn't want to continue to be involved in anything as a persecutor himself. So he also knew that he could not leave the military or else he would be wanted for the rest of his life and put into prison for 30 years. So he chose to leave Venezuela and come to the port of entry here in El Paso and also was told he could not enter the United States.

A lot of my clients come because their life is in danger, and it's at the hands of their own government. There's nothing else that they could possibly do. They can't go from another city to another city because it's the government that has the power to basically either torture them or kill them.

SUMMERS: This was a big victory for immigration advocates, the Supreme Court decision. What more would you like to see the Biden administration do now in terms of setting their immigration policy?

CASTRO: Well, the first thing we would hope that Biden's administration does is to expedite this process so that this is official, but then that they also codify this and make this law. Because currently, the decisions today basically said it's discretionary. So it gives the president that power to have the discretion. However, that is the power that could be placed in the hands of the next president that could then re-implement MPP or something like it.

SUMMERS: And just to clarify here, MPP is Migrant Protection Protocols.

CASTRO: So what the Biden administration needs to do is make sure that they make this and turn it into law. And so therefore the next president can't make the changes or re-implement this.

SUMMERS: One thing that we have heard from Republican governors is a concern that the immigrants who are trying to get into the country under the asylum program, they've cast them as dangerous. What is your response to that comment from some Republican governors in this country?

CASTRO: Actually, that comment bothers me a lot. My clients are not criminals. It is a complete legal process to come to this country and seek asylum. It has been legal for decades. And we have always welcomed all of them with dignity. And it's not until now with the Trump administration where they tried to put a stop to it and started stereotyping these people that have absolutely never committed a crime in their country. And they're coming to this country to ask for asylum.

SUMMERS: As we speak, it's been several hours since the Supreme Court decision came down. Have you heard from any of your clients who are currently stuck waiting in Mexico?

CASTRO: Yes, actually, our receptionist told me right away that the phone calls won't stop. And a couple of my clients called me directly. And so that is definitely the next thing on my agenda today, to find a way to get them over here as soon as possible.

SUMMERS: That was Marysol Castro, managing attorney at Diocesan Migrant and Refugee Services in El Paso, Texas. Thanks so much for talking with us today.

CASTRO: Thank you. Have a great day. Transcript provided by NPR, Copyright NPR.

Juana Summers is a political correspondent for NPR covering race, justice and politics. She has covered politics since 2010 for publications including Politico, CNN and The Associated Press. She got her start in public radio at KBIA in Columbia, Mo., and also previously covered Congress for NPR.
Ashish Valentine joined NPR as its second-ever Reflect America fellow and is now a production assistant at All Things Considered. As well as producing the daily show and sometimes reporting stories himself, his job is to help the network's coverage better represent the perspectives of marginalized communities.
Kathryn Fox