Preparations are underway for the release of migrants who are waiting to be reprocessed from Matamoros through Brownsville’s port of entry starting as early as Thursday. But that date could change.
Originally, reprocessing for migrants under the Trump era program known as the Migrant Protection Protocols, or MPP, was set to begin Friday. Later, the date was reset for Monday, then later again for Thursday. Three different sources reported receiving the latest date from federal government officials.
Brownsville Mayor Trey Mendez said the Department of Homeland Security and White House officials said the date would be Wednesday, but later updated it to Thursday on Tuesday afternoon.
Similarly, leaders of non-governmental organizations involved in the logistics of the process — Catholic Charities of the Rio Grande Valley, which operates the largest migrant respite center in the region, and Global Response Management, which provides medical services to migrants in Matamoros — cited hearing different reports.
Sister Norma Pimentel, executive director of the respite center, said she was told the reprocessing would start Thursday. She recently formed a coalition of shelters in advance of the release of non-MPP asylum seeking migrants on Jan. 27. Together, they manage the logistics of the people released on a daily basis.
Sam Bishop with Global Response Management in Matamoros was told the release of migrants in Matamoros would start Wednesday, but the date has been a moving target since last week.
“Typically, what happens is that they’ll express doubt in the possibility that it’ll open on a specific day like tomorrow,” Bishop said Tuesday. “And then towards the end of today, we’ll hear, like, ‘yea, it’s definitely not going to be tomorrow, it’ll be Thursday.’”
DHS officials speaking on background Monday said, “Given current operational considerations specific to these ports in Texas, DHS cannot yet specify the date processing will begin. DHS is working intently with our partners on both sides of the border to begin processing individuals as soon as possible.”
A census carried out by Mexican and U.S. non-governmental organizations found there were about 350 families living in the Matamoros camp a week ago — that’s roughly 750 people, according to Bishop.
UNHCR officials said those living in the Matamoros camp will be prioritized due to the unsafe conditions they’ve faced. Some migrants who lived there and left are returning to the camp hoping to be prioritized.
The administration began reprocessing last Friday in the San Ysidro port of entry in California. They began with a small group of 25 people a day.
Pimentel confirmed the reprocessing will start with a group of 25.
Overall, the government estimates there are about 25,000 people under MPP with active immigration cases, including those under appeal, who qualify to be reprocessed.
UNHCR and other NGOs will administer COVID-19 tests to migrants up to 24 hours before crossing. If they test positive, they will need to stay in Mexico to quarantine for up to 10 days and try again later. Those who are negative for the virus will be crossed into the U.S. where their information will be verified by U.S. Customs and Border Protection officers.
Non-governmental organizations are waiting to help move those released from border towns to their final destinations, often in other parts of the country.
Many of the migrants are waiting in Matamoros under the program for nearly a year and a half.
They started packing their belongings last Friday, but changing dates along with the online platform registration problems experienced as they tried to initiate the process last week is perpetuating confusion and frustration.
“They’re just waiting. What else can they do?” Bishop said.