EL PASO, Texas (Border Report) — Asylum-seekers who cross the border through Arizona will no longer be bused to El Paso, Texas, before they are sent to Mexico to await their immigration court proceedings.
The Department of Homeland Security announced Thursday it is expanding the Migrant Protection Protocols (MPP) program in Arizona. That means migrants apprehended in Arizona’s Tucson Sector will be returned to Mexico at the Nogales Port of Entry south of Tucson.
Starting in late November, those migrants were taken to El Paso before being returned to Mexico for processing under MPP, also known as “Remain in Mexico.”
The move brings to seven the total number of ports of entry where MPP returns will be made. The others include San Diego and Calexico in California, and El Paso, Laredo, Brownsville and Eagle Pass in Texas.
The government has forced more than 56,000 asylum-seekers to wait in Mexico. The migrants often wait in squalid camps, and reports say many are kidnapped, robbed or extorted.
However, DHS officials say MPP has been a crucial element of the agency’s success in addressing the ongoing migrants crisis, securing the border, and ending catch and release, as well as proven effective at reducing human smuggling across the Southwest border.
“MPP has been an extremely effective tool as the United States, under the leadership of President Trump, continues to address the ongoing humanitarian and security crisis at the border,” Acting Secretary Chad Wolf said in statement DHS issued Thursday. “The Department is fully committed to the program and will continually work with the Government of Mexico to expand and strengthen it. I am confident in the program’s continued success in adjudicating meritorious cases quickly and preventing fraudulent claims.”
In November, Fernando Garcia, the executive director of El Paso’s Border Network for Human Rights, said he was disappointed that the Trump administration continues to rely on a program he says violates U.S. and international law to deal with asylum seekers.
“From a human rights and civil rights perspective, MPP has been a failure,” Garcia said. “This program has abandoned and promoted the abuse of migrants by sending them to Juarez, which is the most violent city in Mexico. It has put their lives in danger.”
In Thursday’s news release, DHS said MPP remains a cornerstone of its efforts to restore integrity to the U.S. immigration system and relieve the crushing backlog of pending asylum cases.
“Our nation is more secure because of the program, and migrants with meritorious asylum claims can receive protection in months, rather than waiting in limbo for years,” the release said.