EL PASO (Border Report and AP) – Asylum-seekers who cross the border through Arizona are now being bused by immigration authorities to Texas, where they can be sent to Mexico to await their U.S. immigration court hearings.
The government said its highly criticized program known colloquially as Remain in Mexico is now in effect all across the Southwestern border. That includes the Tucson Sector, which comprises a large chunk of Arizona.
The Washington Post first reported the news that authorities plan on busing migrants from Arizona to El Paso to be sent to Mexico.
A Customs and Border Protection spokesman confirmed that migrants apprehended in Arizona will also be subject to the program, called Migrant Protection Protocols (MPP).
The government has forced over 55,000 asylum-seekers to wait in Mexico. The migrants often wait in squalid camps, and reports say many are kidnapped, robbed or extorted.
Fernando Garcia, executive director of El Paso’s Border Network for Human Rights, said he was disappointed that the Trump administration continues to rely on a program he says violates U.S. and international law to deal with asylum seekers.
“From a human rights and civil rights perspective, MPP has been a failure,” he said. “This program has abandoned and promoted the abuse of migrants by sending them to Juarez, which is the most violent city in Mexico. It has put their lives in danger.”
He said he finds it “insulting” that the Administration would expand MPP in El Paso, where migrant advocates have rallied against it and whose representative in Congress, U.S. Rep. Veronica Escobar (D-Texas), has requested that it be defunded.
“We truly support the elimination of the MPP program. Congress cannot be funding a program that violates the Constitution and international law,” Garcia said. “We believe it’s important to fix the asylum and refugee system in the United States, which is imperfect, to protect the rights of people.”
Escobar in May co-sponsored the Asylum Seeker Protection Act, which would defund MPP. The legislation is stalled in a Congress divided along party lines, but Escobar has continued to speak out against it at various House committees and subcommittees, alleging it violates due process and has led to “atrocities” committed in Mexico against the asylum seekers.
But in recent visits to El Paso, both Acting Customs and Border Protection Commissioner Mark Morgan and Department of Homeland Security Acting Secretary Chad Wolf said the MPP program has been a “critical tool” to controlling the migrant surge that overwhelmed law-enforcement and detention center resources the past fiscal year.