McALLEN, Texas (Border Report) — Some asylum-seekers who have been forced to remain in Mexico will be allowed into the U.S. beginning on Friday only at the San Ysidro Port of Entry in Southern California, a South Texas lawmaker told Border Report.
U.S. Rep. Henry Cuellar, D-Texas, said that some migrants who were part of the Migrant Protection Protocols program (MPP) will be selected for entry into the United States at San Ysidro, near San Diego.
Then on Monday, more MPP migrants will begin to cross from Matamoros, Mexico, into Brownsville, Texas, Cuellar said.
Migrants won’t be admitted from Juarez, Mexico, into El Paso, Texas, until Feb. 26, said Cuellar, who is vice chairman of the House Appropriations Homeland Security Subcommittee.
Border Report has reported that no more than 30 asylum-seekers per day will be admitted into El Paso once the process begins.
It is unclear how many migrants will be allowed into Southern California. But migrant advocates on Thursday told Border Report that 25 to 30 of those from the refugee camp in Matamoros, Mexico, as well as those with highest medical needs, will be among the first admitted into Brownsville starting on Monday. Some of these migrants have been living in the camp on the banks of the Rio Grande for nearly two years after being placed there by the Trump administration.
“The camp in Matamoros will be considered a priority because of the conditions in the camp,” Sister Norma Pimentel, executive director of Catholic Charities of the Rio Grande Valley, which spearheads volunteer efforts at the camp, said in a conference call with media on Thursday afternoon.
The reason for the staggered delay, Pimentel said, is because “the people organizing are not ready to go with Matamoros. They are in Tijuana/San Diego,” she said. “They want this done properly.”
All will be tested for coronavirus in Mexico prior to admittance.
Coronavirus testing is being coordinated by the United Nations and the nonprofit organization Doctors Without Borders, said Andrea Leiner, a healthcare worker serving in Matamoros with the nonprofit organization Global Response Management, which has been offering free medical care to migrants in the camp since 2019.
The United Nations High Commissioner for Refugees (UNHCR) — which helped millions of refugees from Europe assimilate into new countries following World War II — and the International Organization for Migration (IOM) will work with Doctor’s Without Borders to set up staging areas on the Mexican side of the border to administer COVID-19 tests, Leiner said. However, there are not many specifics about where these sites will be located.
Mexican officials earlier this week announced that they would not pay for COVID-19 testing of the asylum-seekers wanting to enter the United States.
The White House announced that migrants who were placed in the MPP program prior to Jan. 1, may begin applying for admittance into the United States via an online portal. The portal is expected to open on Friday, migrant advocates say.
“This is a crucial first step to communicate our respect for human rights and human dignity, which includes abiding by legal processes and health and safety protocols,” according to a joint statement by Assistant to the President and National Security Advisor Jake Sullivan and Assistant to the President and Homeland Security Advisor and Deputy National Security Advisor Liz Sherwood-Randall.
Only migrants with pending immigration cases before the Executive Office for Immigration Review will be considered for entry. Those whose cases have already been rejected or decided are not eligible to apply for admittance.
Those who are accepted into the United States will likely be required to wear ankle bracelets through the Immigration and Custom Enforcement Agency’s deferred adjudication process, and must appear before an immigration judge for their scheduled upcoming asylum proceedings. Anyone who fails to appear in court will be expelled, federal officials said.
Nonprofit organizations will be key to helping migrants assimilate and find transportation to their U.S. destinations once in the country. They held an organizational meeting on Wednesday where some details were revealed.
Afterwards, Felicia Rangel-Samponaro, co-director of the Sidewalk School for Children Asylum Seekers, which offers free classes to the migrants in Matamoros and elsewhere on the border, said she informed her staff that the process will begin on Monday.
She said they were excited but recognize that less than two dozen will be allowed to cross into Brownsville per day and so many will have to wait.
“They also know the numbers (admitted) as well, so they know it’s not going to be them crossing on Monday,” she said. “It will be those with serious medical conditions.”
Migrants try to keep warm beneath giant heaters brought into the refugee camp in Matamoros, Mexico, on Feb. 15, 2021. (Courtesy Photos)
Rangel-Samponaro said the 1,000-plus migrants living in the refugee camp in Matamoros have been suffering this past week as an arctic air blast struck as far south as the Rio Grande Valley, sending temperatures into the teens and bringing ice, snow and sleet. She said giant portable heaters were allowed by Mexican immigration officials to be brought to the camp this week and that has helped some with the extreme cold.
Pimentel said volunteers on Thursday were taking another truckload full of supplies including space heaters and sleeping bags.
“People at the camp are still struggling. We are continuously sending items like blankets and sleeping bags but that’s not enough. We have requested hot water bags to put in their sleeping bags to help keep them warm,” Pimentel said.
More frigid air was moving into the region on Thursday and is expected to last through Saturday.
Sandra Sanchez can be reached at Ssanchez@borderreport.com.