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The number of migrants ordered to wait out their asylum cases in Mexico more than doubled in July after the Trump administration expanded the policy to two additional cities.
A total of 11,804 immigrants were sent back to Mexico in July under the policy, officially known as Migrant Protection Protocols (MPP), according to a new report by the Transactional Records Access Clearinghouse at Syracuse University. That’s up from 5,883 people in June and 5,161 in May.
Border crossings have steadily declined since May, but the administration has still ramped up Remain in Mexico cases since then, the report shows. The Department of Homeland Security not only expanded the program to two additional ports of entry — the Laredo Port of Entry and the Brownsville International Bridge, both in Texas — but also put more people on the Remain in Mexico docket across the board. Of the 11,804 cases in July, over 3,000 were in Laredo and nearly 1,500 were in Brownsville.
The Executive Office for Immigration Review, the Department of Justice office that oversees the federal immigration court system, recently pushed back cases for asylum-seekers in the U.S. to prioritize Remain in Mexico cases, KBPS reported. A spokesperson told the station that Remain in Mexico cases are “for prioritization purposes, being treated as though they are detained.” Since cases for detained migrants are typically handled faster than those for non-detained migrants, Remain in Mexico cases are essentially being pushed to the front of the line.
For the migrants forced to wait in Mexico, speedier cases may be both a blessing and a curse. Migrants forced to wait in border cities have become easy prey for cartels and gangs, which target them for extortion and kidnapping. In Tijuana, landlords are scamming migrants by renting out rooms to them only to throw their belongings out onto the street when they go to the U.S. for their hearings, according to the San Diego Union Tribune.
But faster processing times also mean migrants have even less time to find attorneys willing to represent them, which means their chances of being asylum are almost nonexistent. Less than 1% of migrants whose cases are on the MPP docket have lawyers, according to a recent TRAC report.
Cover image: In this April 30, 2019, file photo, migrants seeking asylum in the United States line up for a meal provided by volunteers near the international bridge in Matamoros, Mexico. (AP Photo/Eric Gay, File)