A Trump-era policy to make asylum-seekers wait in Mexico for hearings in U.S. courts is reviled by immigration advocates and repudiated by the Biden administration, which revived it under a judge’s order. Asylum hopeful Alexander Sánchez of Venezuela has a more favorable view. “There is no other way to cross legally and, for that reason, I think it’s good,” he said at a migrant shelter in Reynosa, a Mexican city where he has been living for nine months with his wife and their 5-year-old daughter. Sánchez’s optimism reflects the desperation of migrants who have seen asylum shut down under U.S. restrictions that deny humanitarian protections on grounds of preventing spread of the coronavirus, the Associated Press reports.
The U.S. returned its first asylum-seekers from Brownsville, Tx., starting Jan. 25, under its “Migrant Protection Protocols” policy. It was the latest step in a slow-moving rollout across the border to make asylum hearings available to migrants who wait in Mexico. So far, “MPP 2.0” pales compared to pandemic-related restrictions on seeking asylum at the border. Only 381 migrants had been returned to Mexico to wait for hearings from Dec. 6, when the policy resumed in El Paso, Tx. U.S. authorities expelled migrants more than 1.5 million times without an opportunity to claim asylum since March 2020 under the pandemic restrictions known as Title 42 authority, named for a 1944 public health law. In December alone, they were expelled nearly 80,000 times.