EL PASO, Texas (Border Report) – Unable to present an asylum claim at U.S. ports of entry, Haitian and Central American migrants are fording the Rio Grande and surrendering to the Border Patrol at the border wall, Mexican media report.
A group of 15 Central Americans set off from Juarez’s Chamizal Park this morning and turned themselves in on the U.S. side of the river, El Diario reported.
Another group of Haitian migrants, some of them carrying small children in their arms, also crossed the river late Monday. The newspaper published a photograph of a couple crossing the river wearing winter clothes, carrying backpacks and a child.
The Department of Homeland Security on Monday restarted the Trump-era Migrant Protection Protocols (MPP) program to comply with a federal court mandate. Migrants who request asylum upon apprehension and demonstrate credible fear are supposed to be processed and, after a 24-hour period, returned to Mexico to wait for court dates in the U.S.
However, these applications are not yet being taken at U.S. ports of entry.
A KTSM/Border Report camera crew on Monday documented several families and individuals from Mexico and Central America with the intent of applying for asylum being turned back by U.S. Customs and Border Protection officers at the middle of the Paso del Norte International Bridge.
“The fact that we have video proof of Mexicans and Central Americans being turned away and being told the border is closed is completely contrary to international law,” said Melissa A. Lopez, executive director of Diocesan Migrant and Refugee Services in El Paso.
She said it’s particularly troublesome to see Mexican families turned back to the country they are trying to flee and families with small children risking a fall while crossing the river.
“Seeing photographs of people crossing the river or going over the wall shows the desperation that people have to try to seek asylum in the United States. The fact that people feel they have to risk their lives and health and safety to try enter the U.S. is an illustration of just how broken our immigration system continues to be.”
DHS on Monday sent a statement stating it’s “closely coordinating the court-mandated reimplementation of MPP with the Government of Mexico to address security concerns and operational constraints.”
DHS says it won’t be sharing details on MPP for now due to operational security.
However, late Tuesday, the U.S. Border Patrol sent Border Report a statement saying guidance regarding how to apply MPP is still being evaluated:
“As required by statute, the El Paso Sector will continue to enforce the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention’s public health order pursuant to Title 42 for all covered noncitizens for as long as the Title 42 order is in effect.
Individuals encountered by Border Patrol Agents, within the El Paso Sector, are evaluated case by case to determine if they’re amenable to Title 42 or if they will be placed on another immigration pathway, this includes asylum cases.”
Just recently, individuals that are not subject to Title 42 may be placed into the Migrant Protection Protocol, if they are non-Mexicans who are nationals of Western Hemisphere countries arriving by land. El Paso Sector guidance as to the implementation of MPP, and those who are eligible for enrollment is still being evaluated.”
The program began in El Paso on Monday and will expand to other parts of the Southwest Border. Returns to Mexico will take place at seven ports of entry in San Diego, Calexico, Nogales, El Paso, Eagle Pass, Laredo, and Brownsville, the agency said.