EL PASO, Texas (Border Report) – The U.S. government today returned to Mexico the first asylum-seekers since the Biden administration re-started the controversial Migrant Protection Protocols program this week.
U.S. Customs and Border Protection officers late Wednesday morning walked two males – a Colombian and a Nicaraguan – to the middle of the Stanton Street Bridge in El Paso and handed them over to officials with Mexico’s National Migration Institute.
The Mexican agents escorted the asylum-seekers to a new tent facility on their side of the bridge where the migrants will stay until transported to shelters in Juarez. Once there, they will wait to be called for court dates in U.S. immigration court in El Paso.
“Today we will receive 35 persons, approximately. We will receive a similar number daily. They will stay (at the tents) for three days, so we will have up to 100 people from (the MPP) program there,” said Santiago Gonzalez, head of Juarez’s Human Rights Office.
After those three days, transportation will be arranged to the Leona Vicario federal government shelter in Juarez, he said.
The Trump administration in 2019 and 2020 placed some 70,000 asylum seekers on MPP to deal with a huge spike in migration from Central America. The Biden administration stopped the program early this year and allowed more than 10,000 MPP participants to enter the country. His administration, however, has been faced with an even greater spike in migration this year.
Migrant advocates in the United States say they’re disappointed that the Biden administration opted to resurrect “Remain in Mexico.”
“The restart of the program causes some real concerns about people’s due process rights and also has huge concerns for us in terms of the safety of migrants having to remain in Mexico especially when they’re not Mexican,” said Melissa A. Lopez, executive director of Diocesan Migrant and Refugee Services.
Haitians, Brazilians and now Jamaicans who are not native Spanish speakers and petition for asylum could be sent to wait in Juarez and other Mexican border cities to await the resolution of their cases. U.S. and international aid agencies have documented thousands of criminal acts against foreign migrants passing through Mexico, particularly in these border cities besieged by drug cartels and other organized criminals.
“There’s a lot of concerns about the restart of this program and I struggle to see any real benefit,” Lopez said.
She and other advocates would like to see migrants being able to stake asylum claims at designated U.S. ports of entry and being allowed to remain in America while their process plays out if they have demonstrated a credible fear of persecution in their home countries.
El Paso’s U.S. Rep. Veronica Escobar, D-Texas, in October filed a bill seeking to expand asylum seekers’ rights.
The Reimagining Asylum Processing Act would take migrants out of CBP custody as soon as feasible and into Humanitarian Processing Centers. There, they would get orientation about the asylum process, access to legal counsel and a 72-hour “rest” period to prepare for a credible fear interview.