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DOJ asks Supreme Court to cancel arguments over Trump border wall and 'remain in Mexico' policy

The Biden Justice Department is unlikely to defend either facet of the former president's immigration policy.
Image: Donald Trump
President Donald Trump tours a section of the U.S.-Mexico border wall in Alamo, Texas, on Jan. 12, 2021.Alex Brandon / AP file

WASHINGTON — The Justice Department asked the Supreme Court Monday to cancel courtroom arguments scheduled for later this month over two aspects of Donald Trump's immigration policy, a reflection of the new administration's reversal on both issues.

Stopping the border wall project was among the first steps President Joe Biden took shortly after he was sworn into office. "It shall be the policy of my administration that no more American taxpayer dollars be diverted to construct a border wall," he said in a proclamation signed Jan. 20.

In another switch, the Department Homeland Security suspended the Trump administration's policy of sending people seeking asylum, from Honduras, El Salvador, and Guatemala, back across the border to Mexico, instead of allowing them to wait in the U.S. for their cases to be heard. From late January 2019 until the program was halted because of the Covid-19 pandemic, more than 68,700 people were shuttled back to Mexico under what the government called the Migrant Protection Program.

Acting Solicitor General Elizabeth Prelogar asked the court to take both cases off the calendar and put further proceedings on hold. The border wall case was to be argued Feb. 22 with the "remain in Mexico" case to be heard a week later, on March 1.

Both will probably be dismissed as moot, since the Biden Justice Department is unlikely to defend either facet of the Trump immigration policy.

A federal appeals court ruled last June that the government improperly diverted $2.5 billion of Pentagon counter-drug program money to build more than 100 miles of border wall. The court said only Congress could approve such a transfer.

Trump ordered the use of the Defense Department money after a fight over his budget led to a partial government shutdown. It ended after Democrats approved some money for border wall construction, but considerably less than what the president wanted.

Biden ordered a 60-day pause in construction work and directed the government to review existing contracts and funding.