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The US begins to receive asylum seekers from Mexico

After months, and even years, of waiting in Mexico, those seeking asylum in the United States will be able to enter the country as of Friday, waiting for the courts to decide on their petitions, repealing one of Donald Trump’s star immigration policies that he President Joe Biden promised to withdraw.

The number of asylum seekers who will initially enter will be very limited. The process will begin on Friday at the San Diego border crossing, before expanding to Brownsville, Texas, on Monday and El Paso, also in Texas, next Friday. The US authorities warned the migrants not to go to the border with Mexico, noting that the 25,000 people estimated to have active cases within the “Remain in Mexico” program and several hundred more who appealed court rulings must register on a website that the United Nations High Commissioner for Refugees will launch early next week.

On the other hand, the International Organization for Migration, the UN migration agency, plans to carry out COVID-19 detection tests to asylum seekers and will quarantine for 10 days anyone who tests positive before entering U.S.

Friday is a key day in the dismantling of one of Trump’s flagship policies to dissuade people from seeking protection from persecution, and to return the American asylum system to the formula it has operated for decades. But there are some unanswered questions, such as how the Central Americans who returned to their countries will return to the border.

It’s also unclear how long it will take to resolve the more than 25,000 active cases in the Trump program with the rule that the earliest will be the oldest. The authorities pointed out that two of the border crossings can handle up to 300 people a day each, and the third, smaller, will admit less, but will start well below that number.

Biden is quickly fulfilling his electoral promise to cancel this policy, officially called “Migrant Protection Protocols,” which according to the Trump administration was critical to reversing the surge in asylum seeker arrivals, which peaked in 2019. But this program also exposed migrants to violence in Mexican border cities and made it difficult for them to find lawyers and communicate with the courts about their cases.

About 70,000 asylum seekers have been part of the program since it began in January 2019. Those whose cases were dismissed or denied may not choose to return to the country, but US officials did not rule out some form of help later.

The Biden administration, which stopped registering newcomers on his first day as president, said last week that people with active asylum cases would be released on U.S. soil with subpoenas to appear in immigration courts as close to their status as possible. final destination. This was a great relief for those who opt for this protection, while Washington and the UN asked that there be no mass arrivals at the border.

About 100 people waited for hours Wednesday in Tijuana, Mexico, at the border crossing with San Diego before a Mexican immigration agent answered their questions about the policy change.

Edwin Gómez, who recounted that his wife and 14-year-old son were killed by gangs in El Salvador because they couldn’t pay extortion fees from his auto shop, was eager to meet his 15-year-old daughter in Austin, Texas. She already has an asylum and lives with relatives.

“I never thought this was going to happen,” Gomez, 36, said with a smile.

Across the border from the Rio Grande, Salvadoran Enda Marisol Rivera and her 10-year-old son have been enduring the freezing temperatures all week huddled under stacks of donated blankets in their makeshift tarp tent. The propane gas stove froze, he said. Despite the hardships caused by the polar cold wave that hit Texas and northern Mexico, Rivera was encouraged and closely followed the news.

She and her son are among about 1,000 migrants living in a tent camp set up in a sprawling park south of the Rio Grande, in the Mexican city of Matamoros. Some 850 of them have applied for asylum and were told that they had to wait in Mexico for the date of their trial. Many rejected offers this week to move to shelters in the city for fear of losing their chance to enter the United States if they are not close to the border. The intense cold is just another obstacle in the way of those who fled violence in their countries and live in limbo. Some have been waiting for more than two years.

Rivera was hoping to be able to cross into the country, where she could live with her sister in Los Angeles while her case progresses in court.

Non-governmental organizations, including Jewish Family Service of San Diego and Global Response Management, which works in Matamoros and Brownsville, will play a crucial role in organizing temporary housing and transportation once migrants enter the United States.

“This problem has been brewing for years and they are trying to find solutions, but they are dealing with things that come up in real time,” said Andrea Leiner, a spokeswoman for Global Response Management, which has been providing medical care in the Matamoros camp. “I think we need to have a little patience and allow room for this to be fixed while all the actors involved put their plans in place to start doing this safely and effectively.”

But he added that everyone is nervous, especially asylum seekers.

“People are incredibly hopeful that this is their chance to cross, but there is also a lot of anxiety and a way that, somehow, if they do something wrong and they are not in the right place at the right time, they can be shut out.” Leiner added.