Asylum cases transferred out of MPP and allowed into U.S. doubled in the past month, new data shows

Border Report Tour

El Paso saw most asylum-seekers release, but still has most pending MPP cases

These asylum seekers were released on Feb. 27, 2021, via the Gateway International Bridge from Matamoros, Mexico, into Brownsville, Texas. Most asylum-seekers released from the remain-in-Mexico program have crossed through South Texas since the Biden administration took over. (Border Report File Photo/Sandra Sanchez)

McALLEN, Texas (Border Report) — The Biden administration last month doubled the number of asylum-seekers who were legally allowed to enter the United States and whose asylum cases were transferred out of the now-defunct remain-in-Mexico policy, according to new data released Tuesday.

As of the end of April, a total of 8,347 migrants who previously had been forced to remain in Mexico under the Trump administration’s Migrant Protection Protocols program, were allowed to cross the Southwest border from Mexico since the end of January, a new report by the nonprofit Transactional Records Access Clearinghouse (TRAC) of Syracuse University found.

This is up significantly from the 3,911 asylum-seekers who had been transferred from MPP from the time President Joe Biden took office through the end of February. And it shows a trend by the Biden administration, which has done away with the controversial Trump-era policy and is now working to integrate these asylum-seekers into U.S. immigration courts.

But the data shows 26,474 asylum-seekers whose cases are still categorized in MPP.

Most crossed into South Texas via the cities of Brownsville and Laredo. El Paso saw a huge increase in the number of cases admitted, although that West Texas city still has the most pending MPP cases — 10,830 as of the end of April.

The report was compiled by studying all of the immigration cases nationwide and putting in Freedom of Information Act requests with the U.S. Department of Justice’s Executive Office of Immigration Review, which oversees all cases. By matching court records and case cohorts, TRAC was able to track the Biden administration’s phased process of allowing migrants into the United States.

This sign greets those coming from Matamoros, Mexico, into Brownsville, Texas, via the Gateway International Bridge. (Border Report Photo/Sandra Sanchez)

Austin Kocher, a lead researcher for TRAC, told Border Report the findings showed how differently migrants are treated when they apply for asylum, as well as the lack of consistency in immigration case policies across the board.

“My main takeaway from this report is just how many invisible inequalities exist with the immigration system. Seeking asylum in the United States may seem like a straightforward process of coming and asking for sanctuary. But what we continue to see in the data is that people often experience the system very differently depending on where they are from, or which court they are assigned to when they arrive,” Kocher said. “In many ways, asylum is not one single process but rather a lot of little processes that depend not just on the law but on who you are.”

My main takeaway from this report is just how many invisible inequalities exist with the immigration system. … In many ways, asylum is not one single process but rather a lot of little processes that depend not just on the law but on who you are.”

Austin Kocher, TRAC

Most of those released from MPP entered the U.S. through the Gateway International Bridge in Brownsville, Texas. Across the border, a migrant tent encampment was dismantled and nearly 1,000 asylum-seekers who had been in MPP for nearly two years were allowed to legally cross. TRAC noted that 2,784, or 44%, of all MPP cases from Brownsville, have been transferred.

This file photo from Jan. 17, 2020, shows a little girl and other migrants who lived in a tent encampment in Matamoros, Mexico, across from Brownsville, Texas. The tent has been leveled and nearly 1,000 of the asylum seekers have been legally allowed to cross into the United States. (Border Report File Photo/Sandra Sanchez)

The number of MPP cases assigned to Laredo, Texas, also jumped significantly with 948, or 28% of those MPP cases allowed to enter from the northern Mexican town of Nuevo Laredo, the data showed. This is up substantially from just 3% of cases admitted into Laredo during the previous month.

El Paso saw the most MPP cases admitted there — 3,362 up from 1,357 the previous month. Nevertheless, the region still has the most MPP pending cases anywhere on the Southwest border, and most of those asylum-seekers are living south of the border in the Mexican city of Juarez.

Immigration courts in Southern California remain the slowest to transfer MPP cases, with less than 20% of cases transferred at the Calexico Port of Entry, and 23% in San Ysidro Port of Entry.

The No. 1 destination location for all who crossed is Miami, Fla., followed by Orlando, Fla., Dallas and Houston, the study found.

Asylum-seekers from Venezuela were the most likely to have their cases transferred — with over 50% — followed by Cubans, then Salvadorans and those from Honduras, Nicaragua and Colombia. This is attributable to the high concentration of Venezuelans and Cubans whose MPP cases were assigned to Texas courts, the report found.

Previous TRAC research found the most successful asylum cases were those with lawyers. However, there is concern that thousands of migrants paroled into the United States — most through South Texas — are not being issued formal Notice to Appear documents with court dates and locations due to overcrowding conditions at migrant processing facilities, like one in Donna, Texas, where Homeland Security Secretary Alejandro Mayorkas last week visited.

A South Texas congressman last week told Border Report that over 18,500 asylum-seekers have been released through South Texas with insufficient fast-tracked paperwork.

The TRAC study out Tuesday found that only 9% of MPP cases that remained pending as of the end of April involved migrants who had obtained legal counsel; 91% had not.

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