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The First Group Of Asylum Seekers Crosses Into CA As Biden Phases Out Trump's Remain In Mexico Policy

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Asylum seekers wait to cross into the United States in Tijuana on February 19, 2021. (Photo by Patrick T. FALLON / AFP)
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Asylum seekers who have been forced to wait in Mexico under a controversial program put in place by former President Donald Trump are beginning to be allowed to enter the United States, where they'll wait while their immigration cases are decided.

The first 25 migrants in the program were processed through the San Diego-Tijuana border on Friday. Another 25 people were processed today.

It's part of the Biden Administration's move to end the Migration Protection Protocols program, better known as the "Remain in Mexico" program, which launched in 2019 to deter migration.

Congresswoman Nanette Diaz Barragán, who represents CA 44 (which includes swaths of South L.A. including Compton, San Pedro and Watts) says the MPP program forced people to endure inhumane living conditions while they waited at encampments in Mexico:

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"About a year ago, I saw in person the inhumane living conditions in an MPP encampment in Matamoros, Mexico. It was heartbreaking to see the pain, suffering and danger migrants faced as a result of this un-American policy intended to curb our asylum system."

She was at the San Ysidro port of entry today, where she says the migrants were all processed in about an hour. A local non-profit organization, Jewish Family Service, then took them to a San Diego hotel to quarantine.

Barragán told LAist/LPCC that it was a significant moment for the families involved:

"In many cases, people are being reunited and staying with their family members. In one case today, we had a woman who was going to Philadelphia with her young three-year-old girl, who had been waiting [in Mexico] for 14 months."

The administration is first processing people with active immigration cases — approximately 25,000 of the more than 65,000 imigrants who were forced to return to Mexico under the program.

Migrants need to first register with NGOs then wait for instructions before heading to the border.

Barragán says that U.S. Customs and Border Protection officials at the San Ysidro port of entry have told her they have the capacity to process about 100 asylum seekers a day, to start.

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To ramp up beyond that, Barragan says they may have to consider expanding beyond weekdays and daylight hours.

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