Little change expected after end of ‘Remain in Mexico’ policy

A small percentage of migrants have been enrolled in the program

The ‘Remain in Mexico’ Trump-era policy will officially begin to be phased out by DHS more than three years after it went into effect.

The ‘Remain in Mexico’ Trump-era policy will officially begin to be phased out by the U.S. Department of Homeland Security more than three years after it went into effect, according to an announcement from the Biden Administration on Monday night.

The program is formally recognized as the Migrant Protection Protocols, or MPP, which forced asylum-seekers to wait in Mexico for their hearing in a U.S. immigration court.

According to a statement by DHS, “MPP has endemic flaws, imposes unjustifiable human costs, and pulls resources and personnel away from other priority efforts to secure our border.”

Advocates for asylum-seekers have argued the policy exposed migrants to extreme violence in Mexico and made access to attorneys difficult.

“A lot of the areas in which migrants and asylum-seekers are forced to live on the US-Mexico border are in cartel-controlled areas,” said Chloe Rastatter, one of the co-founders of the nonprofit Solidarity Engineering.

Since 2019, Solidarity Engineering has helped make improvements at several migrant camps in Reynosa.

“We’re estimating there are around 4,000 people within them, but these camps can’t meet the need for all of the people who have been waiting there for weeks, months, more than a year,” Rastatter said.

She said the news of the end of MPP was well-received by asylum-seekers. However, there is still a lot of confusion surrounding what comes next.

“I think it will lift spirits within the camps a little bit,” Rastatter said. “A lot of the migrants first started asking about MPP being lifted once the Supreme Court had made the ruling (on June 30). And while it gave them hope, the reality of that is, while we still have Title 42 in place, the majority of them are exactly where they were before.”

Little change is expected. It is estimated that about 70,000 asylum-seekers qualify for relief or protection from removal. However, DHS statistics show only a small percentage have been enrolled in the program.

“What Title 42 does is put such high barriers to even applying for asylum that people weren’t even getting far enough in the process to be (enrolled in) MPP,” Rastatter said. “So, you know, it’s great news, and everyone’s very excited that, you know, this future barrier is no longer there, and they don’t have to worry about that. But in the present day, we still have Title 42, which is forcing all of these families to be stuck in Reynosa.”

For Rastatter and her team at Solidarity Engineering, the focus remains to provide migrants equitable access to essential services.

“What we need funding for always and consistently is (for) porta potties, you know, portable bathrooms to address emergency needs,” Rastatter said. “One of our big focuses now is (also) shade because it’s just miserable out there, and that affects water (and) that affects the cleanliness of the bathrooms.”

Within the past month, a new informal camp for migrants opened due to the demand. It is estimated several hundred people take refuge in that space as they wait to petition for asylum in the U.S.

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About the Authors:

Alicia Barrera is a KSAT 12 News reporter and anchor. She is also a co-host of the streaming show KSAT News Now. Alicia is a first-generation Mexican-American, fluent in both Spanish and English with a bachelor's degree from Our Lady of the Lake University. She enjoys reading books, traveling solo across Mexico and spending time with family.

Rick Medina is a Video News Editor at KSAT. A graduate of the University of Texas' prestigious Radio-Television-Film program, he has been in the news business for more than 20 years. Rick is also a documentary filmmaker, helming the award-winning film festival favorites, “The Opossum Begins” and “Amigoland.” He is originally from Brownsville.