The Biden administration has made immigration a focus of his first 100 days in office. But what have his efforts so far amounted to at Texas southern border?
For one thing, it halted the Migrant Protection Protocols, or MPP. This is the controversial Trump administration policy that forces asylum seekers to remain on the Mexico side of the border until their asylum hearings are scheduled.
Valerie Gonzalez is an investigative reporter for the McAllen Monitor. She says that even though the MPP program has stopped, not much has changed for the asylum-seekers already enrolled.
But for new migrants seeking asylum, the rules are different.
“For those who are just coming into the country applying or seeking asylum, they are not being enrolled into MPP because the administration stopped the program on the first day that Biden came into office,” she told Texas Standard.
So what are border agents doing if they apprehend somebody crossing the border who is seeking asylum?
“We’re getting different reports because in the Rio Grande Valley we are seeing that certain families are being released into the country, and that means they’re being paroled into the country with a notice to appear at a later date or at a date to be later determined at the immigration court hearings,” Gonzalez said.
That process was being applied previously to those under MPP, Gonzalez says, except they weren’t being allowed into the country; they were being sent back to Mexico and waiting for the court dates there.
“But in other parts of the country,” she says, “we don’t see that necessarily happen. And as we understand, Mexico is still accepting the the expelled migrants under Title 42. So it’s a little unclear as to why certain families are being released and why others are being turned back.”
Is there not a procedure in place uniformly along the border? Or are border agents unaware of what the new procedure is supposed to be?
“We have reached out to [Customs and Border Protection] and we’ve reached out to Mexico’s Foreign Relations Office and at Tamaulipas as well. And so what it appears to be happening is that CBP here in this area has been facing three particular issues.”
One, she says, is limited space issues due to COVID-19 restrictions. Another is that one of the largest immigrant processing centers has been closed because of required renovations after reports the agency was keeping migrants in untenable conditions. Lastly, she says, “It appears that they’re being affected by a Mexican policy that does not allow shelters in Mexico to keep children and families. But that particular policy in Mexico doesn’t seem to be uniformly applied.”
If you were a migrant who went back into Mexico under MPP, are you now allowed to come back into the United States?
“My understanding is that only those who are being released are not part of MPP,” Gonzalez said. “So they are migrants who are just recently arriving. The families that I spoke to last week told me that they had arrived two or three days before their release. So they had just come from Guatemala or Honduras, and they were released a few days after they came into the U.S. with their families. Those who are in MPP have thought about perhaps coming over and seeking the same kind of aid, but their case was a little more complex because their case has already started in the immigration court hearings.”
She says some of the migrant’s cases have already been denied and are in the appeals process.
“But logistically it’s a little bit different handling a someone whose case has not started and someone whose case has progressed. Now, we don’t know exactly why the administration hasn’t moved on MPP enrollees, but they are starting to feel quite desperate,” she said.