Migrants waiting under Trump-era policy in Mexico to be reprocessed 

Migrants who sought asylum in the U.S. under the Trump administration and were placed under a policy that forced them to wait in Mexico for their cases to be completed will soon be reprocessed at three ports of entry, including one in the Rio Grande Valley, according to a federal source with knowledge of the directive.

U.S. Customs and Border Protection was made aware of the changes by the Department of Justice, a governmental branch that manages the Executive Office for Immigration Review. 

Nearly 25,000 migrants are enrolled into the Migrant Protection Protocols program, or MPP, according to government estimates. 

Federal officers will begin reprocessing enrollees with active cases — those who have not been denied asylum — next Friday, Feb. 19, according to Department of Homeland Security administration officials. 

“It’s important to explain that individuals should not take any action at this time and should remain, await further instruction. Those will come in the coming days from DHS and the administration in general,” an administration official said Thursday evening.

The U.S. is working with Mexico and international organizations to identify those who have been in MPP the longest and those who are among the most vulnerable. They will help register migrants through electronic portals.

Migrants will be kept in staging areas where they will be tested for COVID-19 in Mexico by an international organization financially backed by the U.S. government. Those who test positive will need to quarantine in Mexico.

After a negative test result, they will be transported to the port of entry and eventually released to nongovernmental organizations in the U.S. under the ICE alternative to detention program. Some may be issued GPS monitors. 

Those who are under the program are currently spread across several Mexican border cities including Matamoros, Tamaulipas; Nuevo Laredo, Tamaulipas; Juarez, Chihuahua; and Tijuana, Baja California. 

According to the federal source who spoke to The Monitor, only three ports of entry will begin processing between 100-300 people a day: Brownsville, Paso del Norte in El Paso and San Ysidro in California. More could later be added.

The news was first reported by Buzzfeed’s Hamed Aleaziz who examined thorough plans for the processing. According to Aleaziz, those who were placed in the program first are believed to receive priority in the queue. 

“It is also important that individuals who are not eligible for this initial phase should wait for further instructions and not travel to the border now,” administration officials said. 

People who do not follow the reentry plan will be turned back. 

DHS officials will not allow in people whose US asylum cases were terminated or who already have deportation orders.

“Those who do not currently have active cases will have other opportunities,” officials said. “We are starting with the active cases, because, frankly, they are the easiest to identify and process as we start to get this program off the ground.”

Administration officials stressed, “It does not change the status at the border and people should not assume that now they can come to the border and be part of this process.”

vgonzalez@themonitor.com