Nearly 400 immigrants have managed to enter the United States seeking asylum through the California border since last December, a large proportion of them so far this February, and those numbers are expected to increase considerably as of February 19.
As of that date, the government will begin to allow the entry into the country of some 25,000 migrants with active cases under the Migrant Protection Protocols (MPP) program, also known as “Remain in Mexico”.
That program created two years ago by the Donald Trump administration has sent more than 60,000 undocumented immigrants who crossed the southern border to wait in Mexico for their immigration court appointments, and now the White House will gradually process those who still have active cases.
Eitan Peled, of the Jewish Family Service, told Efe that he estimates that in December 54 people crossed through the San Ysidro port of entry, all with authorization, and in January 144 did so.
“And we see the numbers increasing, because just in the first ten days of February another 191 migrants crossed,” he added.
He revealed that his organization is notified by Customs and Border Protection (CBP) or the Department of Homeland Security (HSD) every time they are going to allow a group of asylum seekers to enter through the San Ysidro border crossing, south of the Californian city of San Diego.
“Behind every group, every number, there are human beings with personal stories that they had to flee in search of safety and a better life for themselves and their children,” he said in a telephone statement.
Jewish Family Services represents before federal authorities dozens of Southern California immigrant rights organizations that are part of the San Diego Rapid Response Network.
This coalition picks up migrants when they leave the San Ysidro border crossing and, as Peled explained, “we coordinate with the San Diego County Health and Human Services Agency to quarantine the migrants for ten days,” usually at a hotel with which they have an agreement.
While the families and undocumented migrants are in quarantine, the coalition ascertains their specific needs, which usually consist of meeting with family members waiting for them in various U.S. cities.
As of February 19, all asylum seekers with active cases and waiting in Mexico will have to register first on a website and test negative for covid-19.
A source from the coalition told Efe that the Mexican government will begin to perform these tests on asylum seekers, and thus they will no longer need to spend days in quarantine in a hotel.
Peled commented that his organization does not know if the nearly 400 migrants who have recently crossed through San Ysidro were enrolled in the MPP program and that the selection of those who have been able to cross with a permit fell to federal authorities.
HSD and CBP did not respond to questions from Efe on this issue.
He noted that the long waits involved in this program, the total suspension of asylum hearings since the pandemic began and the immediate deportation for security because of covid-19 discouraged many immigrants who opted to return to “risk in their countries”.
In the Mexican cities of Tijuana and Mexicali, more than 14,000 migrants were registered in the MPP as cases that would have potential hearings in San Diego, according to figures from the American Civil Liberties Union (ACLU).