The first thing many people who have returned to Mexico tell you is that they are afraid. Fear of cartels, fear of Mexican immigration officials and fear of months of insecurity. This is what they have faced since the Trump administration sent them back to Mexico under the Remain in Mexico program – officially known as the Migrant Protection Protocols (MPP).
Last week, I visited El Paso, Texas and Ciudad Juárez in Mexico to experience the effects of MPP first-hand. What I saw was chaos, malfunctions, and a policy that eliminated the few outstanding safeguards before the Immigration Court.
According to MPP, people who cross the border or arrive at ports of entry are notified that they should appear before the Immigration Court and are then returned to Mexico via a port of entry. Only Mexicans, unaccompanied children and "vulnerable" persons are excluded from the program. However, this did not prevent the US Customs and Border Guard from withdrawing extremely pregnant women and vulnerable LGBT + persons,
In Ciudad Juárez, the MPPs are mostly waiting in a network of private and public accommodations. Although a few lucky people have managed to find work and find another home, most MPP sufferers will be confined to small, crowded rooms over the next few months because they are too scared to leave the shelter.
Kidnappings, assaults, rapes and murders are commonplace in Ciudad Juárez, and most of the people I've spoken to either fell victim to or knew someone who was.
With over 42,000 people MPP has been sent back across the border since the start of the program in January 2019 under MPP and has quickly become the most effective tool in the Trump administration's efforts to prevent asylum seekers from entering the United States.
If persons are returned under MPP, they must wait in Mexico until the date of their next trial. This can often take months. I talked to some people in Ciudad Juárez, who were sent back in June 2019 and have not had their first court hearings.
If people survive the wait, they must return to the port of entry on the day of their hearing. They are then taken to the nearest immigration court by armed guards.
MPP sufferers are likely to go through this process at least three or four times before their case can be resolved. Those who are actually able to apply for asylum – probably only a small number in the face of this Hardly one percent of those affected by MPP found a lawyer– will wait even longer. It will probably take six months to a year before the case is resolved. Throughout this time, they remain vulnerable in Mexico.
When I visited the Immigration Court of El Paso, I learned that more than 15,000 people had returned to Mexico from the El Paso region alone.
This massive increase in new cases has overwhelmed the small Immigration Court of El Paso In 2018, only 1,464 new cases were submitted, The court has only four judges, which means that each judge has been assigned thousands of MPP cases.
Despite the small size of the court, the judges were forced to handle hundreds of cases every day. On one of the days I visited the court, a single judge had been assigned a total of 161 cases in her morning and afternoon files. At the end of the day, she was unable to handle all the cases and was forced to send some people back to Mexico without having any movement in her cases.
The sheer size of the MPP document has also displaced observers from the El Paso court. Although I had waited all day at the court, I was told I could not attend any of the alleged public hearings. They needed every available space in the courtroom for people subject to MPP. This has put the court in El Paso in a state of secrecy, making it virtually impossible to keep track of what is happening in the hearings.
Despite the looming humanitarian disaster, there is no sign that the Trump government plans to reverse the MPP course. In the next few weeks tents for MPP immigration courts will open in Laredo and Brownsville, Texas, where tens of thousands of new cases will begin. And until a court or congress intervenes, the chaos, malfunction and damage caused by this program will continue.
Filed under: Donald Trump, Mexico, Texas
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