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Biden Administration To Start Processing Asylum-Seekers Sent Back To Tijuana

A migrant calls out numbers from the unofficial list of asylum-seekers in Tij...

Photo by Max Rivlin-Nadler

Above: A migrant calls out numbers from the unofficial list of asylum-seekers in Tijuana on July 16, 2019

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Right here at the San Diego-Tijuana border, the Biden administration will officially begin to allow thousands of asylum-seekers to re-enter the United States.

Aired: February 19, 2021 | Transcript

Just over two years after the first asylum-seeker was sent back to Mexico under the Migrant Protection Protocols, also known as “Remain in Mexico,” the program is now beginning to unwind under the Biden administration.

The first asylum-seekers in the program will be processed at the San Ysidro port of entry on Friday, to continue their asylum claims from inside the United States. Last month, the Biden administration ended new admissions for the program.

First launched by the Trump administration to curb asylum in the U.S., the program sent asylum-seekers back to live in dangerous border cities. There, they would wait months for court hearings in the U.S., to see if they’d win their asylum claim. All hearings were paused last March after the beginning of the COVID-19 pandemic.

Reported by Max Rivlin-Nadler , Video by Matthew Bowler

“Most, if not the majority of MPP respondents were without any stable housing, they were living in shelters, sometimes makeshift shelters, in these very unstable, unsafe and sometimes violent conditions,” said Joyce Noche, a lawyer with Immigrant Defenders Law Center, which has provided representation to some of these asylum-seekers. “Having to do that on a daily basis, while also having to fight for your family’s life, in immigration court in the United States.”

To register, asylum-seekers must go online and fill out a form. They’ll be processed in order of who first entered the Remain in Mexico program, which sent over 65,000 asylum-seekers back to Mexico.

“On Monday, people just started coming to our offices, we had Monday, Tuesday, Wednesday, 347 people arrive at our office seeking information,” said Kelly Overton, who helps run Border Kindness, an organization that provides assistance to asylum-seekers in Mexicali, many of whom were sent back under “Remain in Mexico.”

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His organization is distributing laptops to help people sign up to be processed.

“What we have done is hopefully prepare them to be able to access the website that our understanding goes live tomorrow,” Overton said. “And we’ve done that by putting together sheets that explain to people how to access the website, what they’re going to be asked, what information they need, and then distributing those sheets throughout the community.”

The U.S. says it will only process a few hundred people a day across the border, eventually ramping up in coming weeks.

Right now the application is only open to those who still have cases open through the program. Those who have already lost their asylum cases, or had them closed, don’t yet qualify, but that might change in coming weeks.

Listen to this story by Max Rivlin-Nadler.


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These are cross-border stories that connect us. Border people often inhabit this in-between place. From KPBS and PRX, “Port of Entry” tells personal stories from this place — stories of love, hope, struggle and survival from border crossers, fronterizxs and other people whose lives are shaped by the wall. Hosted by Alan Lilienthal, produced by Kinsee Morlan and sound design by Emily Jankowski.

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Photo of Max Rivlin-Nadler

Max Rivlin-Nadler
Speak City Heights Reporter

opening quote marksclosing quote marksI cover City Heights, a neighborhood at the intersection of immigration, gentrification, and neighborhood-led health care initiatives. I'm interested in how this unique neighborhood deals with economic inequality during an unprecedented global health crisis.

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