Starting next Friday, asylum-seekers languishing south of the border will start to see a respite. Under the Trump administration, Central American migrants trying to cross into the US from Mexico were made to "Remain in Mexico"—Trump's name for the Migrant Protection Protocols program, set up in January 2019—while they awaited a hearing on their asylum cases. NPR reports that there are currently 25,000 or so active MPP cases, with people forced to wait things out in rundown camps. Now, the Biden administration has announced it will start relieving the backlog starting Feb. 19, with the Department of Homeland Security allowing about 300 people with active cases into the US daily. "This latest action is another step in our commitment to reform immigration policies that do not align with our nation's values," DHS Secretary Alejandro Mayorkas says in a statement, per Politico.
US officials will work with the Mexican government and international groups to figure out which migrants are eligible, then prioritize those, with the focus on the most vulnerable and those who've been in limbo the longest. Selected individuals will be tested for COVID before they're allowed to enter the US. They'll also be enrolled in an "alternative to detention" program to keep tabs on them while they await their asylum hearings. Still, Mayorkas warns it will take some time to get the process fully up and running, and that in the interim migrants shouldn't flock to the border. "That will only increase the pressure on the humanitarian effort to provide for them carefully and safely," he tells NPR. Migrants will soon be able to register and check their status at "electronic portals" being created by the DHS. "The US government is committed to rebuilding a safe, orderly, and humane immigration system," Mayorkas adds, per USA Today. (Read more migrants stories.)