The US admits the first group of asylum seekers when Biden withdraws policy of remaining in Mexico
As part of its efforts to end Trump-era policies that kept tens of thousands of asylum seekers outside of U.S. territory, the Biden administration on Friday admitted the first group of migrants previously awaiting their immigration court hearings in Mexico.
US border officials processed 25 Latin American asylum seekers at the San Ysidro port of entry in southern California and allowed them to remain in the country for the duration of their trial.
San Diego Jewish Family Services received asylum seekers who tested negative for the coronavirus and took them to an area hotel for quarantine, according to the nonprofit’s chairman, Michael Hopkins. The group included six families and five individuals from Honduras, Peru, Nicaragua, Guatemala, and Cuba.
“It’s the beginning of a new day for our country,” Hopkins told CBS News. “The Remain-in-Mexico program was inhuman in many ways.”
A US government asylum officer who interviewed people enrolled in Trump-era politics praised the efforts of the Biden administration, saying migrants allowed to enter the US now “have their claims fairly assessed “.
“Today was a day of hope. We finally saw 25 people received with dignity,” Taylor Levy, a lawyer who helped dozen of asylum seekers who returned to Mexico, told CBS News. “It is a wonderful sigh of relief that there will finally be justice and hope, at least for the 25 people.”
To prevent migration to the US, the Trump administration enacted a program called Migrant Protection Protocols (MPP) in 2019, which ultimately resulted in more than 70,000 non-Mexican asylum seekers being sent back to Mexico to await their US court hearings waiting.
Many were returned to locations in northern Mexico plagued by violence and crime, and waited months and even years for their trials in the US while in filthy migrant tent camps. The largest camp is in Matamoros, Tamaulipas, an area where the US State Department warns Americans not to visit.
The Human Rights First group documented more than 1,500 reports of assault, kidnapping, rape, threats and even murder of migrants brought back to Mexico by the United States as part of MPP policy a list updated Friday.
The chances of obtaining legal assistance were also slim for most of the migrants returning to Mexico. More than 65,000 of the asylum seekers subject to the policy did not have lawyers to represent them in court, according to government data compiled by Syracuse University’s Transactional Records Access Clearinghouse.
The Department of Homeland Security stopped accepting asylum seekers in the MPP program shortly after the inauguration of President Biden, who strongly denounced the practice during his presidential campaign.
The admission of 25 asylum seekers to California on Friday marked the start of a new process the Biden government, with the help of nonprofits, international groups, and the United Nations Refugee Agency, had launched to gradually admit migrants pending in Mexico cases with it they can stay with family or friends in the US
An estimated 25,000 people could be eligible for stage 1 of the process, but the number of asylum seekers admitted during this stage is likely to be fewer as many migrants with US cases pending have left Mexico and returned to their home countries.
Recently arrested migrants who have never participated in the program are not eligible for this process and continue to be expelled quickly due to a Trump-era public health ordinance that the Biden administration has maintained for the time being.
The US is expected to process more eligible asylum seekers on Monday in Texas’s Rio Grande Valley and later next week in El Paso. Once the ports of entry are fully functional at these first locations, around 300 migrants are expected to be processed per day.
On Friday, the United Nations Refugee Agency released a website allowing eligible migrants to register to get an appointment to enter the US DHS. She announced that taking in asylum seekers who have waited the longest in Mexico, as well as those who are, has priority at medically endangered or imminent danger.
The Biden government requires all migrants to test negative for the coronavirus at staging locations in Mexico within three days before being admitted to the United States. Asylum seekers who test positive are required to isolate in Mexico for 10 days. After completing this isolation phase and for 24 hours without a fever, these people could enter the United States again, the State Department said on Thursday.
The DHS has stated that asylum seekers admitted to the US as part of the Remain-in-Mexico drawdown are generally not sent to detention centers. Instead, they are referred to local shelters and groups such as the Jewish Family Service so they can have access to temporary housing before they leave for their respective destinations in the United States.
Hopkins, the CEO of the Jewish Family Service in San Diego, said his group plans to continue using hotels to provide temporary accommodation to asylum seekers. Through private donations and funds from California and the federal government, Hopkins’ group will provide clothing, groceries, other necessities such as diapers, and help with transportation for newly admitted migrants.
“Most come by with very little money and very few possessions,” said Hopkins.
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