U.S. Admits Some Asylum-Seekers Awaiting Hearings in Mexico

The Biden administration will gradually allow up to 25,000 eligible migrants to await decisions on their asylum cases within the U.S.

Video Transcript

BEN SCHAMISSO: After waiting months, sometimes years in Mexico, migrants stranded by a Trump-era policy are being allowed into the US, starting Friday, as their asylum cases play out.

RAUL ESTRADA ZAVALA: [SPEAKING SPANISH]

BEN SCHAMISSO: The Biden Administration plans to let in up to 25,000 eligible migrants, starting slowly at a San Diego border crossing first, to avoid logistical chaos. Next week, border officials will add two border locations in Texas, hoping to eventually let in several hundred people every day at each designated port of entry.

PEDRO RUIZ TAMAYO: [SPEAKING SPANISH]

BEN SCHAMISSO: Since Trump introduced the so-called Remain in Mexico Program two years ago, to address claims that migrants didn't show up to their hearings, 70,000 asylum seekers have been forced to wait outside the country for their cases to be heard. Around 1,000 have been living at a tent camp within eyeshot of Texas.

JODI GOODWIN: People are desperate. And cold. And need to be able to be processed as soon as possible.

BEN SCHAMISSO: Immigration lawyer Jodi Goodwin has been crossing regularly to Mexico, to help migrants with their cases.

JODI GOODWIN: It would have been ideal if this processing would have started last week, before the cold hit. But I guess the administration just wasn't ready to roll out with it yet.

BEN SCHAMISSO: The United Nations is leading registration efforts, and deciding who gets priority. Only migrants with active cases in the program will be allowed into the US. And only after they have tested negative for COVID-19. Goodwin says her clients are extremely hopeful.

JODI GOODWIN: It's nice to get those WhatsApp messages that have little praying hands emojis and heart emojis instead of the sobbing crying emoji. Which I have seen a lot, for a long time.

BEN SCHAMISSO: Once in the US, migrants could be enrolled in the Alternatives to Detention program, to ensure they appear at their court hearings. The Biden Administration calls the plan another step towards restoring humanity to the US immigration system. But also warns that it should not be interpreted as an opening for people to migrate irregularly to the United States. A group of Republican lawmakers recently sent a letter to President Biden, saying that the plan sends the signal that all borders are open. Ben Schamisso, Newsy.