By Ericka Conant | February 22, 2021
More than two years since the Trump administration’s “Remain in Mexico” policy, asylum seekers are finally able to seek asylum in the United States.
An estimated 26,000 people have pending U.S. immigration cases and have been waiting in Mexico since the policy was enacted, part of the program officially known as Migrant Protection Protocols, or MPP.
While it was still enacted, “Remain in Mexico” sought to deter migrants from seeking refuge in the United States, forcing many to wait their court dates in Northern Mexico for months, and even years at a time
Los Angeles Rep. Nanette Barragán (D-CA) traveled to the San Diego-Tijuana Border on Feb. 22 to witness a bus of 25 asylum seekers finally gain entry in the United States, some of which have been waiting from 14 months to two years.
“We had a number of countries represented today, mostly from the Northern Triangle. We had a family from El Salvador, Nicaragua, Honduras, and Guatemala that I spoke to,” Barragán told AL DÍA.
A year ago Barragán visited the Matamoros encampment south of the Texas Border, and was able to note the differences since the Remain in Mexico policy was rescinded.
“Today I am at the San Ysidro Port of entry, and so the conditions, though, are quite stark. On the one hand, you’re living in Mexico, in a place that’s foreign to you, where you don’t have family,” she said, recalling encampment conditions with no running water, and open to the adverse weather conditions.
It was completely different to what she says she witnessed today.
“That we saw were migrants coming to the border, they arrived in a nice bus, they were all dressed up. There was this little girl who was three years old and one who was six. They had their little backpacks on, ready to go, clean,” said Barragán.
“It was amazing to see the smile on their faces. Just such a stark difference. It was the face of hope, the face of happiness and excitement, versus what I saw in the camps, which was desperation, and hopelessness about when they were going to get out of the camps.”
But Barragán noted that in the early days since the shift in policy, there are things she is keeping an eye on.
“Number one, is increasing capacity. Twenty-five migrants a day is just not enough,” she said.
Barragán also noted the issue of registration and accessibility. Today, they were able to process 25 immigrants in an hour, but should they expand capacity in the future, the process needs to be expedited and made more efficient.
“How do you get more people enrolled? There were people who went to the online portal, but they couldn’t get registered, even though they had been filling out forms, there were people who don’t have access to the internet, and there may be people who don’t even know about having to enroll in an online program,” she said. “So there are a lot of access issues that we need to address as well.”
Even though she is a member of Congress from Los Angeles, Barragán connects with the situation deeply. A child of immigrants, she also represents a lot of immigrants and Latinos who live in her district.
“And so it’s important for me, for them, to see that I am working on issues that impact not just our community but the country,” she said.
Moving forward, Barragán, as House Border Security Chairwoman, said she will hold a hearing in her subcommittee on the issue to make sure sufficient resources are provided for the program to proceed smoothly.
“But we also need to work on comprehensive immigration reform and making sure that we fix our broken immigration system so we have some structure and some weight so we’re not every four years at the mercy of an administration that’s going to try and implement these un-American policies,” said Barragán.
She said that so far, the nation is seeing a step in the right direction, even if it isn’t happening as quickly as others want.
“It’s a new day, and you can see that in the beginning of the undoing of these un-American, inhumane policies implemented by the last administration. Now, some of us want to see it done as quickly as possible and it’s not moving as fast as we want it to, but it is the start.”