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UN is transporting 25,000 asylum seekers to US from Mexico

Asylum seekers from Central America (Gary Coronado/Los Angeles Times/TNS)
February 26, 2021

Agencies at the United Nations have launched efforts this week to transport 25,000 asylum seekers back to the United States after being made to stay in Mexico under the Trump administration’s Migrant Protection Protocols (MPP).

According to a press release from the UN Refugee Agency on Wednesday, the tens of thousands of asylum seekers have active immigration cases in the U.S., but were returned to wait in Mexico under the MPP program. The UN agencies’ action comes after the U.S. and Mexican governments requested UN assistance with migrant re-entry.  

The Refugee Agency began in-person registration of nearly 750 people from the camp in Matamoros on Wednesday, and the first group was expected to be approved to enter the U.S. by the end of the week.

The camp at Matamoros is being prioritized due to the reportedly harsh humanitarian conditions, but individuals residing outside the camp with active cases will be processed, as well.

Also working on the effort is the International Organization for Migration (IOM), which is managing COVID-19 tests for the migrants, and the United Nations Children’s Fund, which is “ensuring humane treatment of children and their families.” The IOM is also responsible for providing transport to designated ports of entry into the United States for migrants who have moved away or returned to their home countries.

The UN agencies said that “according to the new U.S. government policy, all persons with active cases under the MPP program will be able to enter the country to continue their immigration proceedings and lodge asylum claims. The dates and points of entry to the United States for persons who have already completed registration are determined by the U.S. government.”

“All individuals who qualify will be processed based upon the order determined by the U.S. and not based on the date when they pre-register with UNHCR,” the release continued.

The UN agencies also created a website to help asylum seekers register, in addition to email, in-person, social media and telephone hotlines. Since February 19, the UN has received 12,000 applications seeking a transfer to the United States.  

The move builds on the Biden administration’s lax approach to immigration. Last week, U.S. Immigration and Customs Enforcement (ICE) issued new rules requiring officers to make written requests for supervisors’ approval to deport “low priority” illegal immigrants, including drunken drivers, certain domestic assault offenders, identity theft convicts and other felons whose crimes aren’t “aggravated,” effectively protecting many illegal immigrants from deportation.

Homeland Security officials did not say the number of deportations they anticipate will be canceled as a result of the new rules. Each case will be judged based on outside factors like family ties, officials said.