by Jason Hopkins
The Trump administration announced the expansion of a program that transfers asylum applicants back to Mexico while they wait for their claims to be processed by a U.S. immigration judge.
Migrant Protection Protocols program — also known as MPP or “Remain in Mexico” — has expanded to Eagle Pass, Texas, the Department of Homeland Security announced in a press release. At the Eagle Pass Port of Entry, immigration officials already started processing migrants to be returned to Mexico.
“The President is using every tool available to address the humanitarian crisis at the border to include domestic policy changes and fostering collaboration with our neighbors in the region. The Migrant Protection Protocols has been a key component to the success we have had addressing the crisis,” acting Homeland Security Secretary Kevin McAleenan said in a statement Monday.
First launched in January, MPP directs asylum seekers who entered the U.S. through the Mexican border to return to Mexico and remain there for the entire duration of their immigration court proceedings. The program was introduced to help control the immigration crisis and weed out fraudulent claims — something the administration says is working.
“We have already seen individuals granted asylum, and many more fraudulent or non-meritorious cases closed. MPP has been — and remains — an essential part of these efforts. I am grateful to the government of Mexico for their partnership, including accepting MPP returns at Eagle Pass,” McAleenan continued.
Immigration enforcement leaders have long argued that “catch and release” has created a major incentive for foreign nationals to try and enter the country illegally. At the height of the immigration crisis, when migrants were appearing before Border Patrol agents in enormous number every day, not all of them could be kept in detention while their asylum claims were being processed in court. Many migrants were aware they would be released into the U.S. with the expectation that they return to their court date.
McAleenan has argued that MPP ends “catch and release” by forcing them to return to Mexico, thus negating “catch and release” altogether.
Since then-DHS Secretary Kirstjen Nielsen first launched program in January, the administration has grown the program continually throughout the year. Nielsen announced that more immigrants would be subject to the program in April, and DHS recently announced another expansion in September.
The expansion to Eagle Pass marks the sixth port of entry where MPP returns are being made. The administration now says that all migrants may be subject to be returned to Mexico, no matter where along the southern border they try to enter.
At the height of the border crisis in May, there were over 4,8000 illegal aliens crossing at the border by the day, according to newly released DHS information. This represented an average of three apprehensions every minute.
Since MPP has been implemented, more than 55,000 foreign nationals have been returned to Mexico in the past nine months. The rise of program has coincided with a precipitous drop — roughly 80% — in the number of Central American families being encountered at the border. These migrant family units have made up the bulk of asylum applicants.
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Jason Hopkins is a reporter for the Daily Caller News Foundation.