USA lets in thousands of asylum seekers blocked by Trump

Cornelia Mascio
Febbraio 20, 2021

The US will on Friday begin rolling back one of former president Donald Trump's strictest immigration policies, allowing in the first of thousands of asylum seekers who have been forced to wait in Mexico for their cases to be heard.

The 25 people who arrived are the first of an estimated 25,000 asylum-seekers with active cases in the "Remain in Mexico" program who will now wait in the US for their court hearings instead of south of the border. Many waited months, if not years, in squalid conditions and under the threat of extortion, sexual assault and kidnapping. The agreements allowed federal immigration officials to quickly return migrants to their native countries when they had passed through a country with a robust asylum process in favor of traveling to the U.S.

The effort will start slowly, with only limited numbers of people being admitted on Friday at the port of entry in San Ysidro, California. A limited number of individuals who were registered ahead of time by global organizations came through the port.

This advertisement has not loaded yet, but your article continues below. Officials say that approximately 25,000 migrants are waiting in Mexico as part of MPP. Inside, the phone rang off the hook. She already won asylum and is living with family.

Biden began overturning Trump's hardline immigration policies on January 20, his first day in office, when he lifted a travel ban on 13 mostly Muslim-majority and African countries, halted construction of the U.S. -Mexico border wall and reversed other measures.

Democrats on Thursday formally introduced Biden's sweeping immigration bill in Congress, a measure that would provide a path to USA citizenship for an estimated 11 million immigrants in the country illegally.

A USA government asylum officer who has interviewed people enrolled in the Trump-era policy praised the Biden administration's effort, saying migrants allowed into the US will now "have their claims fairly adjudicated".

United States officials say anyone who seeks to enter and is not a member of the MPP programme will be immediately expelled.

The administration estimates that only 25,000 people out of the more than 65,000 enrolled in MPP still have active immigration court cases and is set to begin processing that group on Friday.

DHS Secretary Alejandro Mayorkas said the initiative shows the administration's commitment to immigration reform, but added that, due to capacity constraints at the U.S. -Mexico border exacerbated by the COVID-19 pandemic, change will take time.

Biden officials say they expect eventually to process 300 people per day at two of the ports.

Many in the camp turned down offers this week to be transferred to city shelters, fearing they would lose their chance at being allowed into the United States if they didn't stay close to the border.

The United States, Mexico and global organizations have scrambled in recent days to figure out how to register migrants online and by phone, transport them to the border, test them for COVID-19 and get them to their destinations in the United States, people familiar with the effort said.

The fast-moving process and lack of information from United States officials have frustrated some advocates eager to assist the effort.

The situation has taken on urgency as a winter storm has brought frigid temperatures to much of the southern United States and northern Mexico.

Migrants in the sprawling Matamoros encampment have reported children and families struggling to stay warm in makeshift tents lacking insulation or other protection from the cold.

Biden ordered a review of MPP after entering office, and the Department of Homeland Security (DHS) announced last week that it would begin to process migrants placed in the program.

The Biden administration is requiring all migrants to test negative for the coronavirus at staging locations in Mexico before being allowed into the U.S. Asylum-seekers who test positive will need to isolate in Mexico for 10 days.

Rivera and her son are among about 850 migrants living in the tent camp in a sprawling park just south of the Rio Grande in the Mexican city of Matamoros who applied for asylum and were told to wait in Mexico for their USA court dates.

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