Asylum Seekers Won’t Be Required To Show Up For Delayed Hearings This Month

Published: Monday, May 11, 2020 - 5:46pm
Updated: Tuesday, May 12, 2020 - 7:40am
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The United States has further delayed court hearings for asylum seekers waiting in Mexico under the Migrant Protection Protocols (MPP), known as the "Remain In Mexico" program. But for the next month, migrants won’t have to present themselves at ports of entry for the delayed hearings.

Since late March, the Department of Homeland Security has required asylum seekers returned to Mexico to show up at U.S. ports of entry on the dates of postponed asylum hearings to receive a new hearing notices.

Critics have said that puts asylum seekers at unnecessary risk, with some traveling hundreds of miles to arrive at the assigned port of entry.

But on Sunday, DHS announced a month-long suspension of in-person document services, meaning asylum seekers won’t have to come to the border to receive new court dates. Instead, they should appear at their assigned port a month later, according to a news release.

The change has been met with push back from migrant advocates who say simply pushing back the requirement for asylum seekers to present themselves at the border doesn't adequately address the problem.

"At best, it’s a half step," said Alex Miller, managing attorney on the Florence Immigrant and Refugee Rights Project's border action team. "They don’t have to make that physical journey to get their new hearing notice, until at least a month after their current date. However, we don’t know what’s going to happen at that point, and they will still have to make that journey. And it doesn’t address any of our other concerns about MPP, or any of our concerns about MPP in the COVID era.”

Miller said extended waits in Mexico put asylum seekers at risk of violence, extortion and other crime, as well as exposure to the coronavirus. And the American Immigration Lawyers Association has also opposed the new changes, saying that many have not even been properly informed of changes to the system during the coronavirus pandemic.

“A central flaw of MPP is the government’s inability to get in touch with individuals impacted by the program," AILA Executive Director Benjamin Johnson said in a press release Monday. "This basically ensures that countless asylum seekers will miss important announcements to the detriment of their cases."

Instead, he said asylum seekers who present themselves at U.S. ports of entry for their court hearings should be paroled into the United States to live with family or sponsors.

The hearings are currently suspended until June 19, according to DHS.

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