HIDALGO, Texas (Border Report) — The number of asylum cases transferred into U.S. immigration courts for migrants who were forced to remain in Mexico under the Trump administration’s Migrant Protection Protocols (MPP) policy, dropped significantly last month, new data found.
Transactional Records Access Clearinghouse (TRAC) of Syracuse University, a nonprofit that tracks all immigration cases, reports only 1,988 MPP cases were transferred out of MPP in May, down more than 55% from the 4,476 migrants who in April were allowed into the country whose cases had formerly been under MPP.
Since the Biden administration took office and halted MPP, a total of 10,375 asylum seekers have been able to cross into the United States and have their cases transferred from MPP. But this still constitutes only about 40% of all cases. TRAC reports there are still 16,138 asylum-seekers with pending MPP cases who are still forced to remain in Mexico or elsewhere outside the United States, according to new data released this week.
“What we’re seeing is just a slow down in terms of the number of cases that are transferred into the country,” Austin Kocher, a researcher for TRAC told Border Report on Friday.
Kocher speculates that the Biden administration is having trouble reaching folks who tried to claim asylum and were put in MPP. Since President Joe Biden took office, his administration has worked with nonprofit organizations to help identify migrants placed in MPP and to help earmark those eligible to enter the United States.
In February, the first group of migrants who had been living for years in a tent encampment in the Mexican border town of Matamoros were allowed into the United States, aided by nonprofits like Catholic Charities of the Rio Grande Valley.
But now it appears that it is getting harder and harder to find the migrants who may be living in border towns or returned to their homelands.
“They’re sort of maxing out the number of people they’re able to identify and to let into the country,” Kocher said.
Thousands of asylum-seekers live in makeshift refugee camps that have sprung up south of the border in cities like Reynosa, Juarez and Tijuana, Mexico. They have no electricity, water or physical address to receive mail. And some, like Haitians living in Tijuana, report being preyed upon in camps.
“The slowing of the transfer pace during May was unexpected because the fraction of MPP cases paroled into the country remains small compared to the total number of possible MPP cases. In fact, just under 40 percent of possible MPP cases have been transferred out of MPP courts according to court data,” the TRAC report found.
This is adding to a backlog of immigration court cases that now currently exceeds 1.33 million.
Most of the transferred cases — 4,201 — have occurred in El Paso, but that area still has the most remaining MPP cases to date with nearly 7,200 still pending, TRAC reports. So far, 3,082 MPP cases have been transferred in Brownsville, Texas; 1,535 in Laredo, Texas; 913 in San Ysidro, Calif.; and 644 in Calexico, Calif.
The largest number of migrants paroled into the United States have been from Venezuela at 71 percent, followed by Cubans at 56 percent.
“These numbers reflect worrisome inequities in the pace and number of transfers by nationality,” the report found.
“The big picture here is that MPP has had its effect and even with the Biden administration trying to create alternatives for people, it looks like by and large the people who were discouraged and prevented from applying for asylum have been affectively discouraged and prevented and there may not be a meaningful remedy,” Kocher said.
This is extremely disappointing, as Sunday marks World Refugee Day, Doctors Without Borders organizers say.
They are calling on the Biden administration to build a safe and humane migration policy, ensure that refugees and asylum-seekers have safe and legal pathways to citizenship, and to rescind Title 42, which is preventing migrants from entering the country under a health order put in place by President Donald Trump in March 2020 to stop the spread of coronavirus.
Dr. Carrie Teicher, director of programs for Doctors Without Borders, said in a statement that ending MPP has been a “positive step,” but added that “the Biden administration must go much further in demonstrating that its asylum policy is in line with its commitments.”
“Our hope is that the administration will live up to its promises and create an asylum system that truly recognizes the right of people to seek asylum and centers on their health, safety, and dignity,” Teicher said.