BROWNSVILLE, Texas — The Biden administration expanded the Remain in Mexico program this week to include the Rio Grande Valley.
The Trump-era effort, also known as the Migrant Protection Protocol (MPP), forces asylum-seekers to wait for their U.S. court dates in Mexico.
MPP under Trump had been widely criticized by multiple advocates and human rights organizations who have documented numerous abuses of migrants who are forced to live in dangerous camps along the border, waiting for their day in court.
Tens of thousands of people lived in camps under Trump, waiting for their court date. Some never made it there because they were kidnapped my cartels, according to reports.
President Joe Biden ended the program when he first came into the office. But a court order forced its restart.
And, according to the International Organization for Migration, which has been assisting migrants placed via MPP in Ciudad Juarez and Tijuana, 337 people have been helped by them since the program's restart under Biden.
In an emailed statement Friday, a Department of Homeland Security spokesperson told KENS 5 DHS is still in court fighting MPP reimplementation. But it's restarting the program "in good faith."
DHS said MPP enrollment in the RGV began Wednesday. According to the agency, returns to Mexico will take place through the Brownsville port of entry. DHS officials have not said how many people, if any, were returned to Mexico and placed in MPP through Brownsville.
According to DHS, MPP enrollees returned through Brownsville will have an option to live in Monterrey while waiting for their court date.
KENS 5 has learned that migrants removed under MPP from the Rio Grande Valley can choose to live in any location in Mexico and wait for their U.S. court date. They’re being encouraged to live in Monterrey, where a shelter has been secured.
KENS 5 also found out that all individuals enrolled in MPP are being provided a COVID-19 vaccine.
The Rio Grande Valley is the third location to restart MPP. El Paso was first, followed by San Diego late last year.
“MPP is effective and it would absolutely make a difference for border security,” Jon Anfinsen, president of the Border Patrol Union in the Del Rio Sector, told KENS 5 in December. “If the MPP can get reimplemented on a larger scale up and down the border, then we will be in a much better position to protect the border more efficiently. Frankly, it's the only way we'll have a shot at this point.”
KENS 5 reached out to the Border Patrol Union representative in the Rio Grande Valley as well as the Border Patrol Council president for comment, but we have not heard back.
This is a developing story. Check back with KENS5.com for updates.