McALLEN, Texas (Border Report) — Since President Joe Biden took office, nearly 4,000 asylum-seekers who had been forced to remain in Mexico have had their cases been transferred to U.S. immigration courts and have been allowed to cross into the United States, according to newly released data.
But there are still 26,400 asylum-seekers, who were placed in the Migrant Protection Protocols program under the Trump administration, whose cases have not been transferred out of that program, Austin Kocher, a research assistant professor of the Transactional Records Access Clearinghouse (TRAC), told Border Report on Thursday.
In evaluating cases from the end of January through March 31, TRAC found that the cases of 3,911 asylum-seekers were transferred from MPP to regular U.S. immigration courts and they were allowed into the country. This is far more than the 2,987 migrants whose cases were transferred out of the program under the Trump administration, according to the report.
Trump started MPP in 2019 and over 71,000 asylum-seeking migrants were placed in the program. The vast majority had asylum claims that were dismissed or failed to provide adequate information. Fewer than 27,000 cases remain and Biden suspended the program when he took office.
“Joe Biden ended the program when he entered the White House and since then he has tried to process those individuals who are waiting in Mexico,” Kocher said. “We were interested in seeing how many of those cases had actually been transferred out of MPP courts to non-MPP courts across the country.”
Researchers found that most of the migrants who were allowed to cross into the United States and taken off MPP entered at the Gateway International Bridge in Brownsville, Texas.
The first migrants to cross from Matamoros, Mexico, had been living for over a year in a filthy and muddy refugee camp on the banks of the Rio Grande across from Brownsville. Before she was first lady, Jill Biden visited the camp in December 2019 when her husband was a candidate for the presidency. And on his first day in office, Biden announced he was suspending the program.
Above, The first released MPP migrants are seen in this video (below) bussed into the Brownsville, Texas, bus station. (Border Report File Video/Sandra Sanchez)
A total of 1,719 MPP cases were transferred from the MPP court in Brownsville; that’s 27% of all the pending cases. The second-most court cases were transferred from MPP courts in El Paso in West Texas. A total of 1,357 cases have been transferred since January in El Paso, 12.5% of all pending cases.
The other transferred cases included: 467 from the MPP court in San Ysidro, California; 266 from Calexico, California; and 102 from Laredo, Texas.
Kocher said he expects these numbers to rise quickly in the upcoming months. He said that court cases can take weeks, months, and even years to transfer.
“This is just a snapshot,” he said via zoom on Thursday from Syracuse, N.Y. “It’s entirely reasonable that far more cases haven’t transferred yet into other courts.”
When Biden took office, Cuban nationals represented the migrant group with the most pending MPP cases, and most lived south of El Paso in the northern Mexican city of Juarez. Since January, 16% of those cases, or 1,218, have been processed — the most of any group, Kocher said.
Most of the transferred cases have been sent to Miami and Orlando, Fla., a popular destination for Cubans. Others have gone to: Dallas, Houston, Arlington, Va., and Los Angeles.
Sister Norma Pimentel, executive director of Catholic Charities of the Rio Grande Valley told Border Report on Thursday that daily crossings of those released from the MPP program continue into South Texas.
She regularly leads busloads in and transfers have expanded to other cities, including from Reynosa, Mexico, into McAllen, Texas; and from Nuevo Laredo, Mexico, into Laredo.
TRAC researchers — who gather documents by sending FOIA requests to the federal government — also noted that 21% of all migrants with transferred cases have obtained legal counsel, which is up substantially from the mere 10% who had lawyers representing them prior to January.
Since the influx of immigration cases began — most into South Texas — thousands of migrants have been released into the United States without a formal Notice To Appear document telling them where and when to attend U.S. immigration court hearings. Kocher said his group is tracking how this might affect future immigration cases, and add to the 1.3 million backlogged immigration cases currently in the U.S. immigration courts.
“It’s hard to say how this issue will play out. But I can’t imagine a scenario where not having documents will be a good thing. Likely it will lead to confusion and cases where people are deported because they didn’t show up to hearings,” Kocher said.
Sandra Sanchez can be reached at Ssanchez@borderreport.com.