A Salvadoran girl sits in an asylum seeker camp in Matamoros, Mexico, where around 600 people who have left Central America awaited immigration court hearings on February 7. John Moore / Getty Images hide subtitles
John Moore / Getty Images
John Moore / Getty Images
The Biden administration said it will begin rolling out a new asylum procedure next week on Feb.19 to clear a backlog of asylum seekers on the southern U.S. border, many of whom have been waiting for dirty warehouse in a state of limbo for court hearings because of the Migrant Protection Protocols program.
Under pressure to keep election promises on immigration and with the prospect that a new wave of migrants seeking to escape desperate situations could flood the border, the Biden team plans to take in a ton of asylum seekers – around 300 people per person day – among an estimated 25,000 people with “active cases” in the now-defunct MPP program.
Former President Donald Trump called the program “Remain in Mexico” because it forced migrants from Central American countries to wait for asylum hearings outside the United States. Ending the program was one of Biden’s first actions when he took office. This was part of a major rollback on Trump’s measures to curb immigration. Biden promised a “more humane” system for migrants.
Senior officials who briefed reporters via a conference call on condition of anonymity said they had started work on their new asylum procedure and worked with international organizations helping migrants and the Mexican government during the transition. But they admitted that it came together very quickly. Many details were not set out, partly for fear of the inundation of ports of entry and international organizations with a flood of requests from desperate asylum seekers.
“We need to initiate an asylum procedure and … give people who have been detained in Mexico for too long and have been unable to pursue their cases access to asylum procedures in the United States,” a senior Biden administration official said of the decision.
“We all want to make sure that we send the message that we will start within 30 days of inauguration to demonstrate our commitment to legal avenues for migration, but that it does not change status at the border,” the official said .
“We don’t want people to react to limited information and possibly rush to different parts of the border. That would not be safe given the current environment,” said a second official. They stressed that people should not take any action until they find out if they are eligible, and even then wait for instructions and not travel to the border.
Migrants who believe they are eligible will first register with NGOs, which identify those who are most vulnerable and who have been in limbo the longest. The Department of Homeland Security is building “electronic portals” where migrants can register and check their status.
Migrants will learn the details of the new system through social networks. “We’re going to be doing a lot of media. We’re going to be working with our international organizing partners who have excellent social networks that reach out to migrant communities to make sure people understand who is and who is not eligible for this program.” said one of the officers.
After the first screening by the NGOs, which has not yet been announced, migrants are given an appointment to cross a port of entry. You will first be tested for the coronavirus and equipped with masks.
Asylum seekers will be placed on “alternative detention programs” after crossing the border to a final destination within the country where their asylum cases will eventually be heard, officials said. There are no legal proceedings at the border.