Trump Admin Bolsters “Remain in Mexico” Policy in Key Border Hot Spots

Monday, November 25, 2019
By Paul Martin

by Luis Miguel
Monday, 25 November 2019

The Trump administration is strengthening its “Remain in Mexico” policy in two areas along the southern border in what officials say is an attempt to keep up with migrant flows that are adapting to U.S. efforts.

The Migrant Protection Protocols (MPP), commonly referred to as the “Remain in Mexico” policy, was rolled out in January and expanded during the summer with help from Mexico.

Under MPP, migrants who have entered the country illegally are returned to Mexico while they wait for their immigration hearings (with courtrooms set up at major border sites) rather than releasing them into the interior.

This reduces the incidence of “catch-and-release,” the frequent problem of migrants posing as asylum seekers in order to make it across the border and then disappear into the country without any intention of showing up for an asylum hearing that would likely deny them a legal status.

U.S. Customs and Border Protection (CBP) is further expanding MPP to Arizona’s Tucson sector, a response to a recent surge in migrant flows to the area as migrants seek to avoid MPP hotspots along the border.

According to officials, migrants detained crossing the border in the Tucson sector will be bused to El Paso, Texas, from which they can be returned to the adjacent Mexican city of Juarez and where MPP has already been in effect for six months.

“We track pretty specifically the different flows and where folks are crossing the border, and what we saw as we turned on MPP across the border, the flows stopped in those locations and they went to a different location,” said Acting DHS Secretary Chad Wolf. “So this continues to be a dynamic process, and it’s not ‘we put one thing in place and it solves the problem.’ Every day and every week we’re having to adjust.”

DHS is reportedly anticipating sending at least one busload a day of migrants to El Paso and also has plans to strengthen MPP at Del Rio Sector in the coming days and weeks.

Officials intend to make the Del Rio sector one from which migrants can be directly sent to Mexico and then return to Laredo, Texas, for court proceedings. But this could take weeks as it calls for cooperation with Mexico and additional preparations across multiple agencies.

“We’re strengthening our MPP program in Tucson sector and Del Rio sector because what we’ve seen as we’ve tracked these flows is they’re going in these sectors where MPP is maybe not as strong as it could be,” Wolf said. “So we’re continuing to reassess that and putting in and strengthening those measures, and we’ll see them move elsewhere but that’s part of what Border Patrol does, what CBP does and what DHS does.”

MPP has become an important component of the Trump administration’s immigration policy, specifically as a way to end “catch-and-release,” which, while left unaddressed, served as a magnet that created the massive migration crisis along the southern border.

But following President Trump’s threat to slap tariffs on Mexico, the Latin American nation increased cooperation with the United States, creating dramatic results — including a 70-percent drop in border apprehensions since the highs of May.

The administration has combined MPP with several regional migration agreements, including one with Guatemala, to which illegal migrants began to be sent last week.

MPP has its critics among migration proponents and members of the federal bureaucracy establishment.

“These policies are illegal, they’re immoral, and they’re the basis for human rights abuses on behalf of our nation,” Michael Knowles, president of a union that represents U.S. Citizenship and Immigration Services employees, said in his testimony to a House Homeland Security panel.

“I don’t know a single asylum officer in the country who believes this is a good policy,” Knowles added.

But Thomas Homan, former acting director of U.S. Immigration and Customs Enforcement (ICE), called MPP an “important step in regaining control of the Southern border.”

And Mark Morgan, the acting commissioner of U.S. Customs and Border Protection, told reporters last week that “From a law enforcement perspective, MPP has absolutely been successful.”

In a ruling earlier this month, a judge of the U.S District Court for the Southern District of California ruled that a Guatemalan family seeking asylum in America must have access to an attorney before being sent to Mexico to await the resolution of their case.

A December 13 hearing is scheduled to determine whether that ruling should apply to all asylum seekers who are returned to Mexico under MPP.

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