By Kaylee Greenlee
Thousands of migrants ordered to remain in Mexico as their asylum cases were processed were returned to the country indefinitely despite the Biden administration admitting most of the remaining cases into the U.S., the Associated Press reported Wednesday.
President Joe Biden ended former President Donald Trump’s Migrant Protection Protocols (MPP) requiring migrants to “Remain in Mexico” and has admitted thousands of the 26,000 migrants with active cases into the U.S., the AP reported. Judges have terminated proceedings in nearly 6,700 MPP cases, according to Syracuse University’s Transactional Records Access Clearinghouse (TRAC).
“Things have changed under the Biden administration and we’ve seen a little over 8,000 individuals previously in MPP have their cases transferred out of an MPP court, which suggests that they have been allowed into the US under the more standard asylum processing procedures,” Assistant Research Professor Dr. Austin Kocher told the Daily Caller News Foundation Thursday.
“It doesn’t appear that any of these cases have been decided yet, so none of them are eligible for deportation yet,” Kocher added.
The Biden administration allowed nearly 8,400 migrants waiting in Mexico with pending MPP cases admission to the U.S. as of April, according to TRAC. Just over 18,000 migrants with pending MPP cases remain in Mexico waiting to enter the U.S.
“[Case] terminations effectively end removal proceedings against an immigrant,” Kocher told the DCNF. “This may mean that the government no longer has grounds for seeking to deport someone, or it can mean that there was an underlying issue with starting the deportation process in the first place.”
Over 80% of the case terminations were decided in a San Diego court where “immigration judges questioned the legal legitimacy putting asylum seekers into removal proceedings in the first place,” Kocher added.
Two judges oversee the majority of MPP cases in the court including former immigrant advocate Lee O’Connor who sometimes became angry while presiding over MPP cases, according to the AP. O’Connor told a Homeland Security attorney who challenged him that his oath was to uphold U.S. law, “not to acquiesce when they are flagrantly violated” during an October 2019 hearing.
Advocates said the more than 30,000 migrants who applied for asylum under the MPP and were denied or dismissed should get another chance, though the Biden administration has not commented on the issue. Some of the migrants who failed to appear in court claim they were kidnapped in Mexico while others said they were too sick or scared to cross the border in dangerous cities for their appointments.
Customs and Border Protection (CBP) officials reportedly issued some migrants whose cases were heard in San Diego immigration courts “tear sheets” with fake future court dates to return them to Mexico. San Diego attorney Bashir Ghazialam said around a dozen of his clients and others with different attorneys whose cases were dismissed were allegedly given fake court dates in late 2019.
CBP officials told the AP the documents reportedly issued to the lawyer’s clients in late 2019 served as virtual check-ins for their cases, though the notice didn’t say they would be held online or over the phone.
“Tear sheets are provided to indicate a date when the individual can check in with U.S. officials regarding the status of the appeal,” a CBP spokesperson told The San Diego Union-Tribune in November 2019.
Ghazialam then criticized the agency’s statement as “false” and “ridiculous,” the Union-Tribune reported. He said the tear sheets don’t match CBP’s statement and the information they claim to include.
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