EL PASO, Texas (Border Report) – The Biden administration has placed more than 1,500 citizens of several Latin American countries in the controversial “Remain in Mexico” program since December, Department of Homeland Security figures show.

Enrollments in the Migrant Protection Protocols program more than doubled in February compared to January, but the number of migrants sent to Mexico to await outcomes to asylum petitions remains nowhere near Trump-era program volumes.

Eight hundred ninety-seven people were placed in the program in February compared to 399 in January. By contrast, nearly 3,000 foreign nationals were placed in “Remain in Mexico” during the first two full months of the program in 2019 in El Paso alone.

The El Paso Sector had the most MPP enrollments during the first two months of the court-mandated restart of the program, but the Rio Grande Valley Sector recorded twice as many as El Paso during February. Seventy-one percent of those placed in “Remain in Mexico” by the Biden administration are citizens of Nicaragua, while 12 percent are from Venezuela.

No citizens from outside Latin America – and only one from a Northern Triangle of Central America – are enrolled in MPP. Only 115 women are part of the program. DHS has applied COVID-19 vaccines to 807 migrants before sending them to Mexico.

MPP enrolments by month and sector (DHS graphic)

The DHS report shows once MPP enrollees are called back from Mexico to their next hearing in the U.S., about half are disenrolled and about half sent to Mexico again. “Dis-enrollees are referred to U.S. Immigration and Customs Enforcement (ICE) and Removal Operations (ERO) for a custody determination,” the report states.

“Negative fear” findings higher for those without legal counsel. (DHS graphic)

DHS reports hundreds of cases are resulting in “negative fear” findings and involve mostly asylum seekers that had no attorney or legal consultant present. That’s in line with immigrant advocates’ observations that a migrant’s chances of obtaining an immigration benefit in the United States greatly improve with access to legal counsel.