The Biden administration’s Department of Homeland Security announced Friday a plan to begin processing an estimated 25,000 asylum-seekers who were forced to “remain in Mexico” under former President Donald Trump. The immigrants will be released in El Paso and Brownsville, Texas, and San Diego, Calif.
Beginning February 19, Biden’s DHS will start “phase one of a program to restore safe and orderly processing at the southwest border.” While Biden’s administration withheld the locations of the crossings out of fear they would become overwhelmed, Rep. Henry Cuellar, a Democrat from Texas, identified the them as Brownsville and El Paso, Texas, and San Diego, California, The Associated Press reported.
The department’s announcement advised individuals to remain where they are until they receive further instructions, noting the creation of a virtual registration process that will be available soon.
“As President Biden has made clear, the U.S. government is committed to rebuilding a safe, orderly, and humane immigration system,” said Secretary of Homeland Security Alejandro Mayorkas in a statement. “This latest action is another step in our commitment to reform immigration policies that do not align with our nation’s values.”
“Especially at the border, however, where capacity constraints remain serious, changes will take time. Individuals who are not eligible under this initial phase should wait for further instructions and not travel to the border. Due to the current pandemic, restrictions at the border remain in place and will be enforced.”
According to The Associated Press, the department will likely start slowly, processing roughly 300 people per day at two border crossings and fewer at a third crossing.
The DHS’ statement said the new process “applies to individuals who were returned to Mexico under the Migrant Protection Protocols (MPP) program and have cases pending before the Executive Office for Immigration Review.
The MPP program, also known as the “remain in Mexico” policy, was implemented by former President Trump’s administration to make U.S. asylum applicants wait in Mexico as their case proceeds.
Under the Biden administration’s new rules, any individuals outside the U.S. who were not returned to Mexico under the MPP program or who lack active immigration cases will not be considered for the program.
“This announcement should not be interpreted as an opening for people to migrate irregularly to the United States,” the statement said. “Eligible individuals will only be allowed to enter through designated ports of entry at designated times. We will provide instructions in the coming days for how individuals with active MPP cases may remotely register for in-processing. We will continue to enforce U.S. immigration law and border security measures throughout this process.”
The department said it is working to ensure all necessary COVID-19 protocols are followed, including masks and social distancing, and all individuals processed will be tested for the virus before entering the United States.