TIJUANA (Border Report) — With “Remain in Mexico” now history, the Office of Migrant Affairs in Tijuana says it can’t say for certain how many asylum-seekers were enrolled in the program and waited out their cases in Tijuana.
“That information was never made public, I’m guessing it was about 500,” said Enrique Lucero Vásquez, who is in charge of the office. “Some were returned from the United States, others came on their own after being enrolled in the program.”
Officially known as the Migrant Protection Protocols (MPP) program, “Remain in Mexico” was instituted by the Trump administration and forced asylum-seeking migrants to wait out their cases south of the border.
Critics have argued that MPP forced migrants to stay in dangerous Mexican border cities like Tijuana, Juarez and Matamoros for months and even years.
A federal judge lifted an order keeping the policy in place since December, and the Department of Homeland Security said Monday that it ended a Trump-era policy.
Historically, asylum-seekers with pending cases were able to stay in the United States.
Still, Lucero Vásquez stated the end of MPP won’t translate into fewer migrants showing up in Tijuana because Title 42 is still active.
Title 42 allows U.S. Customs and Border Protection officers and agents to expel migrants who have been apprehended crossing the border without proper documentation. It was implemented as a way to prevent the cross-border spread of COVID-19.
Since that policy remains in effect, many migrants still don’t have the opportunity to request asylum after being detained.
“With MPP, people had some open course for migration, without it there’s no avenue,” said Lucero Vásquez. “If Title 42 is applied and you’re returned immediately, you’re only going to see more migrants being brought back after numerous attempts to cross the border.”
And he added that as long as this continues, shelters in Tijuana will remain saturated with migrants.
Lucero Vásquez says his office and the city of Tijuana need help to be able to provide for and house migrants who are sent back.
“All the shelters are at maximum capacity, the city has been run over by the volume of people, we need the federal government to assume responsibility first and foremost,” he said.