Arizona group ‘very disappointed’ US will again require asylum-seekers to wait in Mexico
PHOENIX — A faith-based organization in southern Arizona is “very disappointed” the Biden administration will reinstate the Trump-era program that requires asylum seekers to wait in Mexico for their court hearings.
President Joe Biden suspended the so-called “Remain in Mexico” program on his first day in office, but a court ordered him to put it back in place.
The program will restart on Monday, and returns to Mexico will take place at seven ports of entry including Nogales, San Diego, and El Paso.
That has Gia Del Pino, director of communications for the Kino Border Initiative, concerned.
“We’re going to see a lot of people who are going to be brought to the border, awaiting their court case and exposed to a lot of violence and a lot of stark poverty – conditions that they already are fleeing from,” she told KTAR News 92.3 FM.
Her group has offices in Nogales on the Arizona side of the border and in Mexico. It provides food, shelter, legal counsel and other humanitarian services to migrants trying to seek asylum in the U.S.
In a statement Thursday, the U.S. Department of Homeland Security announced it reached an agreement with Mexico to next week reinstate the program, formally known as the Migrant Protection Protocols.
The agreement includes making some changes to the program as a way to address humanitarian concerns raised by the Mexican government. Those changes include a commitment to conclude proceedings for asylum seekers within six months of an individual’s initial return to Mexico and improving access to attorneys.
Additionally, vulnerable individuals – including those with physical or mental health issues – will be excluded from the program and be able to stay in the U.S. to seek asylum. The U.S. will also be offering COVID-19 vaccines to asylum seekers.
Del Pino said she doesn’t believe the changes go far enough.
“This doesn’t make it a more humane policy,” she said. “You can’t make an inhumane policy humane. The policy in itself is fundamentally wrong and dangerous.”