Immigration courts In El Paso, Tx., were jampacked in 2019 when the Trump administration ramped up its “Remain in Mexico” program. On an average day, more than 100 asylum seekers were sent back across the border to Ciudad Juárez, including families with children. President Biden halted the returns, but a federal judge ordered his administration to reinstate the program, known as the Migrant Protection Protocols (MPP). After months of negotiations with Mexico, the Biden administration relaunched MPP in December, starting in El Paso. Immigration advocates were furious, but two months after its restart, the new version of MPP bears little resemblance to President Trump’s. The Biden administration re-implemented the program with a narrow scope and none of the zeal demonstrated by Trump officials, the Washington Post reports. Border arrests are higher now than in 2019, but El Paso’s immigration courts remain light on MPP cases. On a recent afternoon, two MPP enrollees, both adult men from Nicaragua, appeared before immigration judge Nathan Herbert. The next day, there were three. “Do you have a fear of return to Nicaragua?” Herbert asked the men, who had been waiting in Ciudad Juárez for their court appointment after being arrested by U.S. border agents six weeks earlier. The men answered yes. Trump sent nearly 70,000 asylum seekers back to Mexico under MPP, using the program as a deterrent for the record numbers of Central American families who were crossing the border and hoping to be released into the U.S. while awaiting court hearings. The biggest difference under Biden has been the scale of returns. The court did not set quotas. So far the Department of Homeland Security has sent back about 410 MPP enrollees, compared with 300 to 400 returned daily in 2019.
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