McALLEN, Texas (Border Report) — The U.S. government has restarted the Mexico Stay Program in southern Texas and is returning some asylum seekers to Mexico. However, most choose to go within the country, rather than wait at the border during their immigration process, Border Report has learned.
The first asylum seekers were referred by the Department of Homeland Security under the Migrant Protection Protocols Program, or MPP, which was relaunched in South Texas on Wednesday, a spokesperson for the Department of Homeland Security said Monday. DHS to Border Report.
It’s unclear exactly how many have been sent back, but migrant advocates say it’s not a lot.
The MPP was restarted in late 2021 in San Diego and El Paso, Texas, and there were fewer than 300 asylum seekers turned away on New Year’s Day.
Sister Norma Pimentel, executive director of Catholic Charities of the Rio Grande Valley, said the few cases enrolled in the program in South Texas so far have opted to go to a shelter in Monterrey, Mexico.
However, several volunteer groups contacted by Border Report said they knew very little, if anything, about the Monterrey facility, which is about 200 miles west, or about four hours by bus.
“All I know is that this is a refuge identified by the Mexican government,” Pimentel said Monday.
Pastor Abraham Barberi, who runs the Dulce Refugio shelter in Matamoros, Mexico — directly across the Rio Grande from Brownsville, Texas — said he was asked a few weeks ago “by officials at the American embassy” if his shelter would help to house asylum seekers placed in deputy. They agreed, but so far he said no MPP-returned asylum seekers have come forward.
His shelter currently hosts more than 200 migrants and far exceeds the capacity of 70 people, he added.
“They are going to give asylum seekers the option of staying in Matamoros or Monterrey,” said Barberi, whose facility is run from his church, Comunidad Esencia Urbana.
“I think they want them to go to Monterrey,” he told Border Report by phone from his base in the border town of Matamoros.
Matamoros is where more than 5,000 asylum seekers who were placed in MPPs under the Trump administration have lived for up to two years. The Matamoros government eventually moved the camp from the base of the international bridge to a nearby city park, but it was no secret that local authorities did not want the large congregation of homeless asylum seekers in their town. .
As the Biden administration was forced to restart the MPP — after the U.S. Supreme Court last summer refused to block a lower court injunction — federal officials met with various volunteer groups and legal aid groups to try to find safer facilities and methods for the return of asylum seekers. Mexico.
DHS officials told Border Report that asylum seekers “will have a choice” of where they live.
“MPP registrants referred through the Brownsville Port of Entry will have the option of residing in Monterrey between their hearings. The State Department and Government of Mexico are facilitating safe transportation to Monterrey, shelters, and COVID-19 testing,” the DHS spokesperson said.
The Department of State and Government of Mexico are facilitating safe transportation to Monterrey, shelters, and COVID-19 testing.
Barberi said he believed Mexico’s Organización Internacional para las Migraciones — better known as IOM — was transporting the migrants inland from the border after they were released by DHS officials.
From Dec. 6 through the end of the year, DHS registered 267 MPP asylum seekers across the southwest border. All were single adults, according to the DHS website.
The majority, 162, were from Nicaragua; 59 were from Venezuela; 32 from Cuba; and seven each from the countries of Colombia and Ecuador.
The Biden administration has fought the reboot of the MPP, which President Joe Biden halted upon taking office. However, the program was fired after a lawsuit by the states of Texas and Missouri.
DHS has listed several changes to the new MPP program on its website, including ensuring that those who express a fear of return are allowed access to a lawyer within 24 hours. Individuals “may also be unenrolled due to a finding of vulnerability at any point in the process.”
They are also trying to clear cases much faster this time, as the national backlog of immigration cases is nearly 1.6 million right now, according to data from Transactional Records Access Clearinghouse, which tracks US immigration cases.
DHS officials told Border Report it will continue to fight to end the program.
“DHS has repeatedly sought to terminate MPP. However, DHS is currently under a court order to re-enforce the MPP in good faith. DHS continues to fight in court, including a pending Supreme Court challenge. In the meantime, DHS is committed to fulfilling the court-ordered reapplication of the MPP in the most humane manner possible,” the DHS spokesperson said.
Sandra Sanchez can be reached at [email protected]