Thousands of asylum seekers wait at Mexico’s borders
The Trump administration, in a tireless effort to reduce immigration in the US, used multiple tools, resources, and executive power to restrict immigration alternatives and hinder programs available to foreigners, including vulnerable populations.
Speaking specifically about humanitarian alternatives, the Trump administration lowered the annual refugee limit in the US to 15,000 for fiscal year 2021 (October-September), which is the lowest number of refugees in the country’s recent history.
Adding to that, former President Trump and his cabinet also hampered the process to request political asylum in the US, increasing restrictions, policies and mandatory requirements to meet eligibility parameters.
To give a specific example, the Trump administration signed an agreement with the Mexican government in early 2019 called Migrant Protection Protocols (MPP) or “Remain in Mexico.” Broadly speaking, this policy states that immigrants who come to the US to request political asylum must remain in Mexico until they receive a response to their immigration applications.
During the Trump administration, more than 70,000 immigrants were enrolled in this program and thousands of them still live in temporary shelters or foundations, often without access to basic services and at the mercy of local gangs and natural disasters.
Conditions at Mexico’s borders and surrounding cities are not always appropriate for communities in need of international protection such as asylum seekers. That is why this policy unleashed a gigantic social controversy among the American population.
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The Biden administration unveils plan for asylum seekers under MPP
When the current president of the US, Joe Biden, launched his political campaign, he promised to remove many of the Trump administration’s restrictions on the immigration system, mainly those related to humanitarian alternatives, which tremendously affected the most vulnerable immigrant communities.
Regarding MPP, the Biden administration initially suspended new enrollment in this program in late January 2021, just days after Biden took office, and stated that it would present a resettlement project to allow asylum seekers to gradually enter the US.
On Friday, February 12, the Biden administration announced a new resettlement plan for asylum seekers under the MPP policy. The proposal will work as follows:
- Initially, the Biden government will allow the entry of approximately 25,000 asylum seekers, who have waited at Mexico’s borders even in the midst of the health crisis caused by the global Coronavirus pandemic.
- In order to enter the US, their cases must still be active and they must meet certain requirements. This plan will not include asylum seekers whose applications have previously been rejected or denied.
- Starting on Friday, February 19, on a daily basis, a maximum of 300 cases will be processed through two or three authorized ports of entry (still unknown to avoid crowds).
- Asylum seekers will have a scheduled hearing and will receive a Notice to Appear (NTA), which will indicate a specific date to appear in front of a local court, usually close to where they live.
It is worth mentioning that the Biden administration has been extremely clear that these changes to the political asylum program will not benefit immigrants who cross the US borders irregularly (without legal documentation or prior authorization).
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