Asylum-seekers on MPP program ‘may come to McAllen’ once allowed to enter South Texas


Group migrants expected to be allowed into the U.S. via Brownsville

McALLEN, Texas (Border Report) — Migrant advocates in South Texas are still waiting to welcome two dozen asylum-seekers who have been living in Mexico for nearly two years and who are expected to cross into the United States any day.

Sister Norma Pimentel, executive director of Catholic Charities of the Rio Grande Valley, who is in charge of volunteer services for migrants, told Border Report on Monday afternoon that the migrants still had not crossed and the location where they were to cross had “not been identified.”

Sister Norma Pimentel, executive director of Catholic Charities of the Rio Grande Valley, speaks with Border Report on Feb. 11, 2021, at her offices in San Juan, Texas. (Border Report Photo/Sandra Sanchez)

She did tell Border Report, however, that “some may come to McAllen,” which is where she runs the Humanitarian Respite Center across from the downtown bus station. Thousands of migrants have been helped at the Respite Center, which offers food, beds, clothes and supplies to travelers. It has hosted dozens of congressional lawmakers, including House Speaker Nancy Pelosi who last visited the facility on Aug. 11, 2019 along with a congressional delegation.

It is uncertain whether that is the plan, but White House officials last week did say that they planned to bring migrants who are released from the Migrant Protection Protocols program into the Southwest border through Brownsville and El Paso, Texas, and San Diego.

On Friday, the first charter bus with 25 migrants crossed from Tijuana into San Diego bringing the migrants who had been in the MPP program. Known unofficially as “Remain in Mexico,” the program was implemented under the Trump administration in 2019 and required asylum-seekers to live in Mexico while awaiting their U.S. immigration proceedings.

The Biden administration has put a hold on any new migrants being put into MPP and announced that about 25,000 asylum-seekers from that program will be admitted into the United States if they meet certain guidelines. This includes those put into the program before the start of the New Year and only those with active immigration cases.

Pimentel said that the 1,000-plus migrants who live in a tent encampment in Matamoros, Mexico, across from Brownsville, have been given priority and are expected to be among the first to cross. Some have been waiting since July 2019 when MPP first began here.

All who want to come must apply via an online portal, which the U.S. Department of Homeland Security on Friday opened up. But the online process reportedly went down for several hours on Friday afternoon, and has flustered migrants who have tried to access and complete the process.

A few weeks ago, migrants traveling with young children — most under age 7 — started to be released by U.S. Border Patrol agents in South Texas with the promise to appear at upcoming immigration court hearings. Every day, more families are coming to the Respite Center, and during last week’s arctic weather blast that struck the region, there were over 500 migrants in the facility, a spokeswoman for the Catholic Diocese of Brownsville told Border Report.

Sixteen women and very young children were dropped off on Feb. 22, 2021, at the entrance to the Humanitarian Respite Center in downtown McAllen, Texas. More migrants are being released into the United States under the Biden administration if they are traveling with children under age 7. (Border Report Photo/Sandra Sanchez)

On Monday afternoon, children could be heard playing inside the Respite Center. One boy being carried by a woman screamed and cried loudly as they were dropped off at the front in a large group.

The migrants who were released from Tijuana into San Diego on Friday, rode in a charter bus, and it is widely expected that the group that enters South Texas will likely do the same. All will be tested for COVID-19 in Mexico prior to their departure. Coronavirus tests are being administered and organized by the United Nations and the nonprofit Doctors Without Borders.

This is a developing story. Look for updates here.

Sandra Sanchez can be reached at

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