Biden to begin admitting migrants forced by Trump to wait in Mexico

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The Biden administration will soon begin allowing migrants into the U.S. who, because of a Trump-era policy, have been forced to remain in Mexico while their asylum cases are processed.

As part of the new administration’s efforts to overhaul the immigration system, the Department of Homeland Security, starting next Friday, will begin the first phase of a program to gradually let in migrants with active cases under the Trump administration’s “Remain in Mexico” policy.

It’s part of the Biden administration’s work to undo former President Donald Trump’s immigration legacy — and, more specifically, end the Migrant Protection Protocols program, which has forced asylum seekers to stay in Mexico while they wait for their U.S. court proceedings.

“This latest action is another step in our commitment to reform immigration policies that do not align with our nation’s values,” DHS Secretary Alejandro Mayorkas said in a statement.

But Mayorkas warned that the administration’s latest step did not mean the border would be open to all migrants, and said that “changes will take time” — the latest warning from Biden administration officials for migrants not to come now.

“Individuals who are not eligible under this initial phase should wait for further instructions and not travel to the border. Due to the current pandemic, restrictions at the border remain in place and will be enforced,” Mayorkas said, in a reference to the public health measure the Biden administration, like the Trump administration, is using to quickly remove migrants arriving at the border.

There are about 25,000 migrants with active cases under MPP, but the new program will first focus on those who have been waiting in the program the longest and vulnerable populations, administration officials said in a news briefing on Thursday night.

The Biden administration’s plan is to work with the Mexican government, international organizations and nongovernmental organizations in Mexico to identify eligible migrants and begin transporting them to certain ports of entry to process their cases and let them into the U.S. Details of the plan were first reported by CNN and BuzzFeed News on Thursday.

Migrants with active cases should not go to a U.S. port of entry until they receive guidance, administration officials said. Those in the first phase will be processed at three ports of entry in the first phase, with most of the work being done at two ports. (The administration officials would not disclose which are the three ports.) Officials said that once processing was up and running, they expected to be able to process up to 300 people a day at each of the two main ports.

Migrants being processed through the program will be tested for Covid-19 before entering the U.S. And once here, they will be enrolled in an “alternative detention program” to track them and their cases will be routed to the appropriate court tied to where they settle in the country, administration officials said.

President Joe Biden has long vowed to end the program, which has resulted in tens of thousands of asylum seekers being forced to stay in Mexico, often under poor living conditions and facing danger. On Biden’s first day in office, DHS announced that it would not enroll anyone else in the program. Last week, Biden signed an executive order that tasked Mayorkas with reviewing the program.

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