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Biden administration rescinds Trump-era ‘metering’ at border

U.S. Customs and Border Protection can still deny entry under the Title 42 public health directive

Homeland Security Secretary Alejandro Mayorkas testifies before a Senate Appropriations panel on May 26, 2021.
Homeland Security Secretary Alejandro Mayorkas testifies before a Senate Appropriations panel on May 26, 2021. (Caroline Brehman/CQ Roll Call)

The Department of Homeland Security has rescinded a Trump-era policy that limited the entry of asylum-seeking migrants along the southern border.

Under a policy known as metering, U.S. Customs and Border Protection determined each day how many people it could process at each port of entry, putting migrants on a list to return later if there was not enough capacity. The policy effectively served to delay migrants in Mexico before they could legally come to the border and claim asylum.

A memorandum dated Monday by acting CBP commissioner Troy Miller puts an end to that policy, although many migrants will still be turned away at the border, without consideration of their asylum requests, under a public health directive known as Title 42.

Miller instructed border agents to “consider and take appropriate measures, as operationally feasible, to increase capacity to process undocumented noncitizens at Southwest Border (ports of entry), including those who may be seeking asylum and other forms of protection.”

The memorandum also encouraged CBP to streamline its processing system through technology, including the acceleration of current efforts to digitize processing. Miller acknowledged that capacity is bound to be limited by “operational realities” and other circumstances, but he urged the agency to process as many people as possible.

Ports of entry “must strive to process all travelers, regardless of documentation status, who are waiting to enter, as expeditiously as possible, based on available resources and capacity,” he said.

The Trump-era metering policy was criticized by immigrant and refugee advocates as a means of unfairly deterring migrants who have the legal right to seek asylum in the U.S.

In late 2020, a DHS inspector general report found that CBP staff turned away asylum-seekers at certain ports of entry after they had already entered the U.S., and that some asylum-seekers ultimately crossed the border illegally after waiting in line at ports of entry or being directed to other ports.

The Biden administration is also seeking to undo Migrant Protection Protocols, a separate Trump-era policy informally known as “Remain in Mexico,” which required migrants who crossed the border illegally to remain in Mexico while their asylum claims were adjudicated.

DHS last week released a four-page memo in a second attempt to terminate the program, which forced more than 60,000 migrants to wait out their immigration cases in Mexico.

However, the move is subject to approval by a federal court that ordered the department to reinstate the program after finding that it hadn’t sufficiently explained its reasons for ending it.

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