Politics

Trump Administration Extends Delay Of Court Hearings For Asylum Seekers

REUTERS/Loren Elliott

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Jason Hopkins Immigration and politics reporter
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The Trump administration, citing continuing complications brought on by the coronavirus pandemic, is extending a delay of Migrant Protection Protocol hearings for asylum seekers in Mexico.

Foreign nationals under Migrant Protection Protocols, a program that holds asylum seekers in Mexico for the duration of their court proceedings, will have to wait longer before they can make their case before an immigration judge. All hearings scheduled through May 1 will be postponed, according to a statement by the Department of Homeland Security (DHS) and the Executive Office for Immigration Review (EOIR) on Wednesday.

“Due to continued circumstances related to COVID-19 and newly-issued guidance from the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention, the Departments of Justice and [DHS] have determined to extend the temporary postponement of Migrant Protection Protocols (MPP) hearings scheduled through Friday, May 1, 2020,” the statement read.

It continued: “All presently scheduled hearings will be rescheduled. The Departments will continually review conditions related to COVID-19 and will make further determinations as necessary in order to ensure that all MPP hearings can proceed as expeditiously as possible when appropriate.”

The exterior of Iglesia Metodista "El Buen Pastor", a church run shelter for migrants, is pictured in Ciudad Juarez, Chihuahua State, on May 20, 2019. - About 7,000 migrants are waiting to enter the United States via El Paso, either by the metered number system, or those which are part of the remain in Mexico policy, Migrant Protection Protocols. Those that are part of MPP are made to wait out their asylum claims on the Mexican side of the Border, where they are vulnerable to criminals looking for an easy target, extortionists, corrupt police, among other dangers. (Photo by Paul Ratje / AFP) (Photo credit should read PAUL RATJE/AFP/Getty Images)

The exterior of Iglesia Metodista “El Buen Pastor”, a church run shelter for migrants, is pictured in Ciudad Juarez, Chihuahua State, on May 20, 2019. (PAUL RATJE/AFP/Getty Images)

Migrants who have a hearing date through May 1 are being directed to report to their designated port of entry at the time of their date and obtain a hearing notice, informing them of their updated hearing date.

Migrant Protection Protocols — also popularly known as the “Remain in Mexico” program, or simply “MPP” — was launched in January 2019 with the intention of controlling the mounting immigration crisis at the U.S.-Mexico border. The program requires most migrants who reach the U.S. southern border and claim asylum to remain in Mexico while their cases play out in the immigration court system.

Since its inception, MPP has become the most effective programs by the administration at stemming the flow of illegal aliens appearing before Customs and Border Protection. Tens of thousands of asylum seekers have since been directed back to Mexico, relieving immigration workers who were stretched thin during the border crisis. (RELATED: ICE Begins Rescuing Stranded Americans Outside Central America)

However, like virtually all functions of life at the moment, the program has been forced to adapt to the spread of COVID-19.

The administration first declared a postponement of MPP hearings on March 23, delaying all master calendar and merit hearings until April 22. However, as the coronavirus crisis continues, the government is now extending this postponement until May 1. The decision will further promulgate the court’s backlog of cases.

A spate of immigration courts across the country have temporarily closed their doors, but so far, EOIR has refrained from a total nationwide closing.

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