McALLEN, Texas (Border Report) — The South Texas cities of McAllen and Laredo will begin receiving asylum-seekers who have been living across the border in Mexico under the Migrant Protection Protocols (MPP) program, which is informally known as “Remain in Mexico.”
The first group of asylum-seekers arrived Monday in McAllen, Sister Norma Pimentel, who runs Catholic Charities of the Rio Grande Valley, told Border Report. They were all tested for coronavirus in Mexico prior to being brought on a bus via the McAllen-Hidalgo-Reynosa International Bridge.
McAllen Mayor Jim Darling told Border Report that he expected 100 migrants to be released from MPP to cross on Monday. He said they would be brought to McAllen, and he said more will follow in the next few days.
This latest group of migrants released into South Texas adds to the thousands of undocumented unaccompanied migrant children and migrant families who have crossed the Rio Grande in this region since the Biden administration took over the White House.
But this is the first time that migrants who have been living in Reynosa have been allowed into South Texas since the Biden administration did away with the MPP program. McAllen and Laredo will join San Diego and the Texas cities of Brownsville and El Paso, which started receiving asylum-seekers in late February and early March.
Reynosa, a dangerous city of over 620,000 across the Rio Grande from McAllen, is where thousands of migrants have begun gathering and waiting since March 2020, when the Trump administration imposed Title 42 restrictions that forbid anyone from crossing the river during the pandemic. Those assigned to the MPP program, which began in South Texas in July 2019, have been forced to wait in Mexico during their asylum hearings. But immigration courts came to a halt during the pandemic and the migrants were just waiting in makeshift tents — most in a refugee camp in Matamoros, Mexico, about 45 miles east of Reynosa, across from Brownsville.
The migrants from the Matamoros camp began crossing over into South Texas in February and the camp is now dissolved. Migrant advocates had expected those in Reynosa to be the next to cross but it took a few weeks to set up.
Migrants released from MPP will soon begin crossing from Nuevo Laredo, Mexico, into Laredo, U.S. Rep. Henry Cuellar, D-Texas, vice chairman of the House Appropriations Homeland Security Subcommittee, told Border Report on Monday.
“We were notified on Friday briefly that Hidalgo and Laredo were going to start processing MPPs,” Cuellar said via phone.
Laredo Mayor Pete Saenz told Border Report that the asylum-seekers should begin crossing on March 29, and city officials are currently coordinating with nonprofits and CBP officials to help process and assist those who cross. All will be tested for coronavirus in Nuevo Laredo under the direction of the United Nations before being allowed into Laredo, Saenz said.
Laredo is about three hours west of McAllen, Texas, and both cities border the northern Mexican border state of Tamaulipas. The migrants are expected to cross at Bridge 1 into Laredo, Cuellar said.