Announced on January 24, 2019, the Migrant Protection Protocols (MPP), also known as “Return to Mexico,” were instituted that month by the U.S. Department of Homeland Security (DHS) which oversees the U.S. Customs and Border Patrol (CBP) and Immigration and Customs Enforcement (ICE). MPP was developed to address what DHS cited as “a security and humanitarian crisis on the Southern border.”
The program required that persons entering the U.S. “illegally or without proper documentation” be returned to Mexico to await the result of their immigration proceedings. An agreement between U.S. President Donald Trump and Mexican authorities afforded that Mexico would provide the migrants with “all appropriate humanitarian protections for the duration of their stay.”
With hearings suspended on March 23, 2020, due to the spread of the coronavirus COVID-19, the fate of many of these individuals became even more uncertain. Having traveled, in many cases, from Central American countries and through Mexico, these people found themselves in a country strange to them literally thousands of miles from home with no idea of when their situation would change.
Having campaigned on a promise of relaxing restrictions for entering the United States, newly-inaugurated U.S. President Joe Biden’s DHS on February 11, 2021, announced the unwinding of MPP. This dismantling of MPP essentially opened the border and allowed those applying for asylum to enter the United States and then be spread throughout the U.S. as they await their immigration hearings. Eligibility for processing and entry without proper documentation was expanded by DHS on June 23, 2021.
Based on now-President Biden’s promise to relax restrictions was interpreted by many as an invitation for migrants to travel to and enter the United States even without proper documentation. This resulted in a surge of migrants attempting to do so, placing themselves and the populace of the U.S. at risk. CBP found itself overwhelmed by those attempting entry at and outside of official ports of entry (POEs). The relaxation of MPP was further perceived by many to indicate that persons could enter the U.S. without proper documentation without the fear of being returned to a location outside of the U.S.
COVID-19 brought concerns about the relaxation of MPP as many of the migrants hail from countries with comparatively-uncontrolled infection and spread of the virus. As the United States was at the time gaining control of the virus among its populace, the potential introduction of new cases brought cause for alarm for many.
Citing Federal Law commonly known as Title 42 and the dangers posed by the relaxation of MPP, Texas Attorney General Ken Paxton, joined by the State of Missouri, filed suit in Federal Court on April 13 to require the continuance of MPP. Friday, August 13, 2021, the Amarillo Division of the Federal District Court for the Northern District of Texas ruled that the Biden Administration had failed to follow the Administrative Procedure Act (APA) that governs the procedures and practices of administrative law by not providing the public the opportunity to weigh in on the changes before they were implemented. The ruling was that Biden Administration was to “enforce and implement MPP in good faith until such a time as it has been lawfully rescinded in compliance with the APA and until such time as the government has sufficient detention capability.”
Both the 5th Circuit Court of Appeals and the U.S. Supreme Court refused to hear appeals raised by the Biden Administration on the ruling, or even to issue a stay of the order for reinstatement as the matter was considered further.
Despite, or maybe even in spite of, these rulings by the Federal Courts, persons wishing to enter the United States illegally or without proper documentation continue to head toward the Southern Border of the U.S.
Mexico has attempted to prevent illegal migration across its own borders, as well. They have been encountering an increased number of migrants from Central America reaching their southern border, and have created “camps” to host these people while their status in Mexico is determined. Despite their efforts, some have decided to create caravans to continue their trek northward, initially toward Mexico City. Their desire for moving toward Mexico City is purportedly to reach the U.S. Embassy there and apply for asylum.
It is reported by Reuters that “around 400 people” left a park in the Mexican city of Tapachula on Saturday, September 4, 2021, headed toward the United States. Fleeing poverty and violence at home, many of the migrants still come from countries that host relatively-uncontrolled spread of the coronavirus COVID-19.
As they travel north toward the United States, this caravan is likely to grow with others who wish to enter the U.S. They are encouraged by President Biden’s statements indicating that they are welcome, regardless of their legal status to enter the U.S. as well as an urging by Mexican President Andres Manuel Lopez Obrador for the U.S. to find these people jobs upon their arrival.
So, even with the dangers of travel across Mexico and the re-implementation of restrictions requiring asylum seekers to remain in Mexico throughout their application process, a new surge is headed north and should be arriving at the U.S. Southern Border sometime within the first full week of September.is gaining speed.
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