EL PASO, Texas — Hope among asylum seekers bloomed in Mexican border cities Thursday after President Joe Biden’s administration halted the controversial “Remain in Mexico” program and said it would review asylum policies.
“The truth is that they are now filled with hope,” said Miguel Gonzalez, who runs the Pasos de Fe shelter in Juárez, Mexico, where migrant families enrolled in the program have been living for months. “They hear that there will be opportunities, or at least they hope there will be.”
During Biden’s first hours in office Wednesday, the Department of Homeland Security issued a statement suspending new enrollments in the program also known as the “Migrant Protection Protocols.”
Some 70,000 migrants — many of them legally seeking asylum or other refuges at the southwest border — were caught in the net of the Migrant Protection Protocols from its inception in early 2019 and turned back to Mexico.
“All current MPP participants should remain where they are, pending further official information from U.S. government officials,” DHS said in the statement.
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Arriving in large part from Cuba, Guatemala, Honduras, and El Salvador, migrants were made to wait in Mexican border cities such as Tijuana, Mexicali, Nogales, Juárez, and Matamoros for a chance to plead their cases before a U.S. immigration judge.
Thousands enrolled in the program have been hunkered down in shelters for months, even years.
More than 27,000 people were attending their MPP hearings regularly before U.S. immigration courts closed last year due to the pandemic, according to an analysis of government data by the Transactional Records Access Clearinghouse at Syracuse University.
Another 12,000 migrants are still awaiting their first hearing.
Halting the Migrant Protection Protocols “is a good first step,” said Linda Rivas, executive director of the El Paso-based Las Americas Immigrant Rights Center, which provides pro bono legal representation to migrants. “We know it will take some time (to implement) but urge that more positive changes come soon.”
By Lauren Villagran for EL PASO TIMES
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