The U.S.-Mexico border has been closed since March 2020 because of the pandemic and it’s not known when it will reopen. However, it’s forcing cartels to change their drug trafficking tactics as they’re now recruiting American’s to do the job.
The Department of Homeland Security (DHS) announced Wednesday it will allow some migrants, who were rejected under the Trump-era “Remain in Mexico” policy, into the United States as their asylum cases are heard.
The policy, known as the Migrant Protection Protocols (MPP), was implemented and expanded in 2019 and kept migrants in Mexico as they awaited their hearings — hearings that took place in court tents set up across the border.
The Trump administration said the policy was successful in ending the practice of “catch and release” — by which migrants would be apprehended and then allowed into the U.S. for their hearings, and which officials said was a “pull factor” encouraging migration to the border.
Opponents said it was a cruel practice that left tens of thousands of migrants in danger as they waited at the border for their cases — a vast majority of which would be rejected. The Biden administration ended the policy and has been allowing migrants enrolled in the program into the U.S. — but until this week that only applied to those with open cases.
The new announcement will allow migrants who had their cases terminated, or who were ordered deported to their home country without being present at their last hearing (“in absentia”), into the U.S.
DHS said the move was “part of our continued effort to restore safe, orderly, and humane processing at the Southwest border.” It emphasized that those affected should stay where they are and apply online, rather than making the trek to the border.
BuzzFeed News, which first reported the development, said nearly 28,000 migrants were ordered deported “in absentia.” So far, 11,000 MPP-enrolled migrants have been allowed into the U.S., according to data from U.S. Customs and Border Protection (CBP).
The development is likely to fuel accusations from Republicans, former Trump officials and others that the Biden administration is contributing to the border crisis with a rollback of key Trump-era policies and by admitting more migrants to the U.S. to claim asylum, even after they have traveled through other countries.
More than 180,000 migrant encounters took place in May, the highest in years and a sign that the crisis at the southern border does not appear to be slowing. The Biden administration has said its policies are not encouraging the surge, and officials have claimed the border is closed — pointing to the fact that most migrants are turned back due to Title 42 public health protections.
Instead, the administration has blamed “root causes” in Central America like poverty, crime, violence and climate change. Vice President Kamala Harris, who has not visited the border since she was tasked with leading diplomatic talks to end the migrant surge, recently visited Guatemala and Mexico as part of those talks.
Despite the increasing numbers, the administration has claimed its strategy is working and has requested more money for advanced technology, strengthened ports of entry and funding to deal with immigration backlogs.
“We have a strategy,” DHS Secretary Alejandro Mayorkas told House lawmakers last week. “We are executing that strategy, I am confident in the strategy and I am confident in the proposal we have submitted to this Congress to best resource that strategy.”