By Manuel Ayala
Tijuana, Mexico, Nov 3 (EFE).- A renewed sense of hope has taken hold at the border a week after the Mexican government officially announced an end to the so-called “Remain in Mexico” policy.
With that change, activists say they expect shelters will become less crowded and migrants are expressing hope that their asylum processes will be resolved.
“Remain in Mexico,” known officially as the Migrant Protection Protocols, was a US policy implemented in January 2019 by then-President Donald Trump’s administration that required migrants seeking asylum to remain in Mexico until their US immigration court date.
“That program “never should have been in force,” Jose Maria Garcia Lara, director of the Movimiento Juventud 2000 shelter, told Efe. “The Mexican government never should have accepted that bilateral cooperation, because there have always been agglomerations of migrants” at the border.
The problem, he said, is that since that agreement went into effect Tijuana and other Mexican border cities became migrant bottlenecks and shelters were pushed beyond their capacity.
But in a statement last week, around four months after the US Supreme Court ruled on June 30 that President Joe Biden’s administration has the authority to terminate the MPP, Mexico’s Foreign Affairs Secretariat officially confirmed an end to “Remain in Mexico.”
“It was an agreement we never agreed with. It’s good that the Mexican government issued that statement indicating the program is, practically speaking, null and void. It means (asylum seekers) will no longer be able to be returned to Mexico,” Garcia Lara said.
Jose Alfredo Calderon, a migrant from El Salvador, also said he was pleased with that announcement.
“Because you’ll already be inside the United States. They won’t send you back anymore, and for me seeing this is really good … because you’re fleeing your country, crime and a lot of things that happen in my country,” he said.
Calderon, who has spent three months in Tijuana in the company of his son Alexander, said he is hopeful they will be granted asylum and be given a fresh start.
Jack Ardin, a native of Haiti, also hailed the end of “Remain in Mexico,” saying he and other migrants have been forced to live in unsanitary and dangerous conditions in Tijuana.
Garcia Lara, coordinator of the Tijuana Migrant Alliance, said the end of MPP is a positive development but that the US also must provide real asylum options, as it did before that program was implemented.
He also cautioned that the rights of asylum seekers are still at risk of being violated due to the continuation of Title 42, a US pandemic-related policy that has allowed border agents to quickly expel migrants to prevent the spread of Covid-19.
“I hope that with that Title 42 program they won’t start returning (members of) the foreign community because doing away with MPP and ‘Remain in Mexico” will have been for naught unless they give all these people the option of (applying for) asylum,” Garcia Lara said.
The region is experiencing a record flow of migrants trying to make their way to the US, whose Customs and Border Protection agency intercepted more than 2.76 million undocumented migrants in the 12 months ending Sept. 30, 2022.