Following the rules of a new White House administration, about 50 asylum seekers a day are released at the Brownsville Bus Station after crossing the river and flagging down Customs and Border Patrol agents to be legally processed and start their case.
The Migrant Protection Protocol, also known as Remain in Mexico, which kept asylum seekers waiting in Mexico until their case was processed, has ended for new asylum seekers. But those who are already under MPP, some of them have been waiting for as long as a year and a half, are still under the program and cannot cross into the United States until their case is heard in one of the court tents that have been closed due to COVID-19 since March.
“What’s happening is that with the new administration Border Patrol said it is within their discretion to release families,” Andrea Morris Rudnik, co-founder at Team Brownsville said.
“They process them at the beginning, they give them a paper that says that they can pass the checkpoint, that they can travel to their sponsor and that’s pretty much what they’re doing. Only with the families with children, moms with children, dads with children, not single men and women. They are still going through the detention center.”
Those who are under MPP and try to cross the river to be processed, like the new asylum seekers, will be sent back to Mexico and told to wait for their court date because they are already under the program.
“You can’t cross the bridge because of COVID. It is a double-edged sword because people are crossing the river and arriving on the shores of Brownsville and obviously they haven’t crossed the bridge,” Morris said.
“So they are flagging down the CBP agents because they want to be caught, they want to be processed. Because they heard that now they can go to their families. This is up until today (Monday,) it could change later today or tomorrow, things change so quickly. But we are told that those who have tried to cross with MPP, because they are in a system already, so they can see ‘this person is under MPP’ and they are sending them back and being told that they have to wait for their court date. “
With the COVID-19 cases continuing to spike in the United States, it is still unknown when the courts at the international bridge will open so that asylum seekers can continue their legal process.
Morris said it is estimated there are 60,000 asylum seekers in Mexico under the MPP program who have been waiting for a year and a half to cross and proceed with their asylum process. Since March, no one has crossed with MPP.
“They closed all those tent courts because of COVID, and so their appointments, their court dates have been pushed back, and back, and back,” she said.
“Since March, no one has crossed with MPP. The only people that have gotten through are very pregnant women that have crossed the river and CBP has released those. Those are the only people I know that have gotten out of MPP.”
Morris said the new asylum seekers being released at the bus station are being helped by Team Brownsville with snack packs, waters and more before they leave to meet their sponsors somewhere in the United States. She said she feels in a way a little like a traitor to all those families that have been living at the camp for a year and a half.
“It feels bad, it does. In a way you feel a little bit like a traitor, you’re serving these people that cross immediately and the people that you’ve been serving for the last year and a half are not crossing.”