On February 19, 2021, the Biden administration started their new asylum process for the backlog of people seeking asylum on the southern U.S. border and have been forced to wait in Mexico – because of President Trump’s “Remain in Mexico” policy – before having their case heard in immigration court.
The Department of Homeland Security (DHS) plans to allow approximately 25,000 asylum seekers slowly – with two border crossings each processing up to 300 people each day and a third crossing taking fewer numbers. The move is a significant step toward dismantling the former administration’s asylum program.
Officially known as the Migrant Protection Protocols program, the “Remain in Mexico” program was introduced in January 2019 and forced about 70,000 asylum seekers from Central American countries to await asylum hearings outside the United States. On his first day of office, President Biden suspended the policy for new arrivals, allowing some individuals to be released in the country with notices to appear in court.
Eligible migrants must first register with nongovernmental organizations (NGOs) that will identify the most vulnerable individuals who have been stuck in asylum limbo the longest. The DHS is developing “electronic portals” to enable migrants to register and check their status.
After the NGO conducts an initial screening, eligible migrants will be scheduled an appointment to go through a port of entry – after being tested for COVID-19. Once they cross the border, asylum seekers will be enrolled in “alternative detention programs” and then wait for their case to be heard inside the country – in cities in or close to their final destinations, often with loved ones.
Since President Biden took office, there has been an increase in people getting stopped crossing the border illegally. The DHS advises migrants to avoid traveling to the U.S. border while the new system is fully implemented.