By QUINN OWEN, ABC News
(WASHINGTON) — The Biden administration plans to begin processing and admitting migrants forced to wait in Mexico under the Trump administration’s “Migrant Protection Protocols” starting next week, according to three administration officials.
The officials said “phase one” of the new admission program will start at three ports of entry and involve identifying and processing currently active MPP cases of asylum seekers who have been designated to wait for their U.S. immigration court date on the Mexico side of the border. This group is estimated to include about 25,000 people.
Asylum seekers will be brought to a U.S. port of entry, released and monitored after their information is taken and they pass a COVID-19 test in Mexico. It also remains unclear how migrants will be tracked once they are admitted back into the U.S.
Officials estimated that about 300 people could be processed per day at each port of entry once the admission program is up and running.
The MPP program was created, in part, to address claims that migrants often failed to show up for immigration court hearings. However, a recent analysis of Department of Justice data by Syracuse University found that 76% of asylum seeking families at the border attended all of their hearings. For families that had a lawyer to help navigate the process, hearing attendance was at 99%, according to the Syracuse analysts.
News of the decision was lauded by immigrant advocates and human rights observers, including Denise Bell, a researcher focused on refugee and migrant rights at Amnesty International USA.
“The United States was responsible for placing people directly into harm’s way and rolling back this deadly policy is a welcome step,” Bell said. “People seeking safety in the United States should now be welcomed into this country and the standard for welcome must be freedom, fairness and dignity.”
Certain details about the program remain unknown, including which ports of entries will begin accepting cases.
Biden administration officials remained concerned that rolling back Trump policies could lead people to rush the border.
“Individuals should not take any action at this time and should await further instruction,” one official said.
A growing number of people were arrested along the southwest border for unauthorized entry last month, according to data released Wednesday by U.S. Customs and Border Protection.
The agency reported an average of 3,000 arrests per day in January, primarily of people attempting to cross between U.S. land ports of entry. Of those who have attempted to cross since March 2020, CBP estimates that 38% have been previously arrested and removed.
The increases could test the Biden administration’s ability to fully roll back Trump-era restrictions at the border going forward.
Copyright © 2021, ABC Audio. All rights reserved.