EL PASO, Texas (KTSM) — Beginning next week, the Biden administration will begin processing 25,000 asylum-seekers who’ve been waiting out their claims in Mexico under the Trump administration’s Migrant Protection Protocols, or the “Remain in Mexico” policy.
This change will allow those processed to wait out their court dates in the United States. However, it only applies to those currently in the program and not those who’ve had their cases terminated or already have deportation orders.
Local immigration advocacy groups are planning for that change as officials say about 300 migrants are expected to be processed per day. Melissa Lopez, the executive director of the Diocesan Migrant & Refugee Services, said the community will play a pivotal role in the execution of the changes.
“The hope is that there will be order to the process in order to minimize the effect on the individuals seeking asylum,” Lopez said.
Lopez said local groups are also coordinating with government and international advocacy groups to form a smooth transition.
Department of Homeland Security officials discourage new migrants from flooding the border as this only applies to those enrolled in the program. Asylum-seekers also must test negative for COVID-19 before they can enter the United States.
“Our concern is for those asylum-seekers, we want to make sure that they are not exposed to COVID-19 and we also want to make sure that if they themselves have COVID-19 that it doesn’t spread into our community so part of our protocol is screening,” Lopez said.
The City of El Paso has periodically said it is working with federal agencies and local advocacy groups in preparation of possible migrant surges following the Biden administration’s rollback on Trump-era policies.
Ruben Garcia, the director of El Paso’s largest migrant shelter, the Annunciation House, said he is shifting his focus to preparing for the new change.
Hope Border Institute, local faith-based advocacy group, praised the changes.
We repeat our invitation to President Biden and Secretary Mayorkas to ‘come and see’ – to visit the border and listen with us to the compelling stories of those forced to flee. We stand ready to work with the administration to end this inhumane policy and restore our nation to its traditional role as a safe haven for the oppressed.Hope Border Institute
Lopez said she doesn’t anticipate the border will see the large influx of migrant groups the area saw in late 2018.
“I hope this situation will be vastly different from the way we’ve seen things in the past, there is a coordinated effort between the US government, the Mexican government, and then as international organization, civil organizations, non-profit, human rights organizations, that are all working together,” Lopez said.