By Julián Aguilar, Texas Tribune
The Trump administration has expanded a controversial immigration policy to another Texas port of entry.
The Migrant Protection Protocols is now in effect in the Maverick County town of Eagle Pass, which borders the Mexican state of Coahuila. The policy requires most asylum seekers to wait for their court hearings in Mexico after being processed by U.S. immigration officials.
The expansion marks the sixth port where the program is in effect after it was announced in late 2018 and implemented in January. The other locations are El Paso, Laredo and Brownsville in Texas, and San Diego and Calexico in California. Migrants returned to Mexico at the Eagle Pass border will be given notices to appear at a temporary immigration court in Laredo in two to four months, the Department of Homeland Security said in a statement. The DHS announced the policy expansion to Eagle Pass in a news release Monday, but the San Antonio Express-News reported last month that MPP was already underway in the border city.
Immigration attorneys and civil and immigrant rights groups have criticized the program, arguing that the policy makes it nearly impossible for attorneys to provide adequate representation to their clients. The policy also keeps a vulnerable population, including women and children, in a violent country where criminals prey on migrants.
In Ciudad Juárez, migrants have reported being robbed, raped and extorted, and a camp of thousands of asylum seekers in the Mexican city of Matamoros is deteriorating while migrants there lack food and running water.
The Department of Homeland Security said the move was just another tool the administration is using to further curb the number of undocumented immigrants trying to enter the United States.
“MPP has been a crucial element of DHS’s success in addressing the ongoing crisis, securing the border, and ending catch and release,” the statement reads. “Since the peak of the crisis in May 2019, the number of aliens encountered at and between the ports of entry has decreased by 64% overall — and approximately 80% for Central American families.”
Since the program began, more than 50,000 asylum seekers have been returned to various Mexican cities. The policy is under review by the Ninth Circuit Court of Appeals in California but has been allowed to continue as the litigation winds its way through the federal courts.