UN officials begin preparations to reprocess MPP migrants in Matamoros

Migrants in Matamoros under a Trump era program that forced them to wait in Mexico for U.S. court hearings for nearly two years are preparing today to enter the U.S. in small groups for reprocessing.

United Nations agencies announced they will begin helping people at the camp prepare to cross into the U.S. The Thursday start date, stalled from last Friday, was confirmed by multiple sources.

On Wednesday morning, the Department of Homeland Security announced it intended to begin soon.

“Beginning this week, with the support of the Government of Mexico and international humanitarian organizations, the United States will begin to process current residents of the Matamoros camp in Mexico,” a statement read in part.

There are about 750 people currently living at the Matamoros camp who are prioritized for the process due to the unsafe and unsanitary conditions.

“New arrivals to the Matamoros camp will not gain entry into the United States through this limited process,” the DHS statement added.

People living outside the camp with active MPP cases will also be processed, though not initially prioritized.

The U.S. estimates there are 25,000 people overall under the Migrant Protection Protocols, or MPP, who have active cases and qualify for the massive effort to reprocess them and grant them temporary entry into the country while they wait for the decision on their pending asylum claims.

Groups will enter into the country in small quantities. Sister Norma Pimentel, the executive director of Catholic Charities of the Rio Grande Valley, is part of the nongovernmental organizations providing assistance to those who will be released through the Brownsville port of entry. Pimentel says they expect the first group to be 25 people.

Those efforts will scale up gradually.

All migrants who qualify must register through an online platform, though many have reported problems with the website since its rollout. UN officials stated about 12,000 people registered in its first three days of operation. Other means of enrolling — including email, social media and telephone channels — were added.

Once registered, migrants will receive a call to verify their information. Then U.S. authorities will decide when they enter and notify them to present themselves at the staging areas set up at the northern part of the Matamoros camp.

Migrants must test negative for COVID-19 as the first part of the process. Those who test positive will need to quarantine for ten days before they can be allowed into the U.S.

“The International Organization for Migration (IOM) is conducting COVID-19 tests to ensure protection of public health while the United Nations Children’s Fund (UNICEF) is ensuring humane treatment of children and their families,” a news release read in part.

“In addition to COVID-19 testing,” the news release added, “IOM is also responsible for coordinating the transportation of persons to designated ports of entry.”

A coalition of shelters and nongovernmental organizations, including Catholic Charities of the Rio Grande Valley, are poised to help once the migrants reach the U.S.

Six shelters started preparing to receive an influx of asylum seekers and migrants under MPP since January. Recently, another church was opened to help manage the flow at the McAllen Respite Center, according to the mayor’s statements made during this week’s city commission meeting.

Pimentel said last week, “We want to make sure that things are orderly, that things are done right. That it doesn’t become chaotic and out of control.”

The first group with active MPP cases entered the United States on February 19 at the San Ysidro port of entry between Tijuana and San Diego, the UN confirmed. Migrants will also begin entering through the El Paso port of entry in the coming days.