SAN DIEGO - Thousands of asylum-seekers whose claims were dismissed or denied under a Trump administration policy that forced them to wait in Mexico for their court hearings will be allowed to return for another chance at humanitarian protection, the Homeland Security Department said Tuesday.
Registration begins Wednesday, June 23, 2021, for asylum-seekers who were subject to the “Remain in Mexico” policy and either had their cases dismissed or denied for failing to appear in court, The Associated Press has learned.
Under that criteria, it is unclear how many people will be eligible to be released into the United States pending a decision on their cases, according to a senior Homeland Security official who spoke on condition of anonymity because the announcement had not been made public.
But Michele Klein Solomon, the International Organization for Migration’s director for North America, Central America and the Caribbean, told the AP that she expected at least 10,000. Her organization is working closely with the administration to bring people to the border and ensure they test negative for COVID-19 before being allowed in the country.
The estimate could be low. There are nearly 7,000 asylum-seekers whose cases were dismissed — the vast majority in San Diego — and more than 32,000 whose cases were denied, mostly in Texas, according to Syracuse University's Transactional Records Access Clearinghouse. It is unknown how many cases were denied for failure to appear in court.
Many are believed to have left the Mexican border region, thinking their cases were finished, raising the possibility that they will make the dangerous trek to return. The official said the administration is aware of those dangers and considering bringing people to the United States, as it is doing to reunite families that remain separated years after Trump's “zero tolerance" policy on illegal crossings.
The move is another significant effort at redress for Trump policies that Biden administration officials and their allies say were cruel and inhumane and defenders say were extremely effective at discouraging asylum-seekers from coming to the U.S.
Biden halted the policy his first day in office and soon allowed an estimated 26,000 asylum-seekers with active cases to return to the United States while their cases play out, a process that can take years in a court system backlogged with more than 1.3 million cases. More than 12,300 people with active cases have been admitted to the U.S. since February, while others who have registered but not yet entered the country bring the count to about 17,000.
That still leaves out tens of thousands of asylum-seekers whose claims were denied or dismissed under the policy, known officially as “Migrant Protection Protocols.” Advocates have been pressing for months for them to get another chance, but the administration has been silent, leaving them in legal limbo.