Ciudad Juarez/Matamoros/Tijuana, Mexico, Feb 26 (efe-epa).- Tijuana, Matamoros and starting Friday, Ciudad Juarez, are the three Mexican border cities where migrants are crossing into the United States to have immigration courts review their asylum requests.
On Feb. 12, the US administration of Joe Biden announced the reopening – starting on the 19th – of the cases of asylum seekers returned to Mexico under a program implemented by former President Donald Trump.
The Migration Protection Protocols program (MPP), also known as the “Remain in Mexico” program, forced people seeking asylum in the US to stay in Mexico waiting for their cases to come before US immigration courts.
After the end of the program, more than 200 migrants have already been processed in the US, some of them after waiting for months and even up to two years.
Nevertheless, there still remain some 25,000 people who are waiting along the border to have their cases reviewed by US authorities.
“There is a lot of excitement among the refugees, who have waited for up to two years in some cses,” Enrique Valenzuela, the general coordinator of the State Population Council (Coespo) for Chihuahua state, told the media.
The transfer of the migrants, he said, is being coordinated by Mexican and US authorities with the help of several United Nations agencies such as the High Commissioner for Refugees and the International Organization for Migration.
To monitor the health status of the migrants, personnel from the IOM on Friday performed Covid-19 tests on the people selected to cross the border first.
The first 25 people crossed from Ciudad Juarez, the IOM confirmed to the media, on Friday afternoon with no problems. Most of those people were in families with children.
In El Paso, across the Rio Grande from Ciudad Juarez, Casa Anunciacion shelter director Ruben Garcia hailed the arrival of the migrants and said that they will be housed there while their cases proceed through the appropriate agencies and courts.
The crossing of the first migrants coincided with the “virtual” visit of US Secretary of State Antony Blinken to the El Paso-Ciudad Juarez border crossing point.
Blinken reiterated the commitment of the Biden administration to reforming the US immigration system.
In his remarks, he emphasized the new focus of Biden and his team in dealing with immigration.
Blinken said that to anyone thinking about making the trek to the US, Washington’s message is “Don’t do it,” adding that Biden is committed to reforming the US immigration system and to guarantee safe, orderly and compassionate processing of migrants along the border, but those things take time.
In Matamoros, in northeastern Mexico, the crossing of migrants into the US occurred without any difficulties and before midday on Friday 30 asylum seekers had been housed in the US under the supervision of civilian organizations and government authorities.
In all, almost 100 people are now on US territory after crossing from Matamoros, some of them reunited with their families to get ready to follow the procedures to obtain legal residence.
Fortunately, so far no positive coronavirus cases have been detected among the migrants who have been staying at a crowded and poorly supplied camp on the banks of the Rio Bravo, as the Rio Grande is known in Mexico, a camp that was a sad symbol of the controversial program imposed by the Trump administration.
“Thank God there have been no positive cases so far,” the head priest with the Social Pastoral of the Matamoros diocese, Francisco Gallardo, said.
For months, hundreds of families sent back to Mexico to await their US immigration proceedings on the orders of the prior US administration have been camping out under unhealthy conditions while US and Mexican organizations provided assistance to them.
On Friday, at the beginning of the end of the camp, workers with the National Migration Institute removed all the tents and belongings that migrants had left there after their departure.