'Remain in Mexico' Hearings Cancelled Through April 22

Program continues, though, while family unit apprehensions drop

By Andrew R. Arthur on March 26, 2020

Topic Page: Covid-19 and Immigration

  • EOIR announced that all Migrant Protection Protocol (MPP) master calendar and merit hearings presently scheduled through April 22 will be rescheduled.
  • Neither the MPP program nor any hearings will be cancelled, however.
  • The number of migrants apprehended and deemed inadmissible at the Southwest border crept up slightly in February, but the number of migrants in family units fell.
  • Family unit apprehensions have fallen 95 percent since May 2019.

On Monday, the Executive Office for Immigration Review (EOIR), the Department of Justice component with jurisdiction over the immigration courts, announced that all hearings for respondents covered by the Migrant Protection Protocols ("MPP", better known as "Remain in Mexico") presently scheduled through April 22 are being rescheduled. Those hearings, and MPP itself will continue, however.

This step by EOIR, which covers both master calendar and merits hearings, is being taken in response to the Wuhan flu. Each alien who has a hearing scheduled between now and April 22 is directed to appear at his or her designated port of entry on the date the hearing is currently scheduled, at which time the respondent will receive a tear sheet and a notice containing a new hearing date.

On the subject of the Southwest border, statistics from U.S. Customs and Border Protection (CBP) show that the number of aliens who were apprehended or found inadmissible actually increased in February from the month before, by 459 (37,119 in February as compared to 36,660 in January). This is the first monthly increase since May 2019, when the number of apprehensions and inadmissibles reached 144,116.

On a positive note, the number of family units ("FMUs", that is, adult migrants travelling with children) apprehended at the border fell in February to 4,610, down from 5,163 the month before, and a 95-percent decrease from the 84,486 FMUs apprehended in May 2019. Last month, FMUs accounted for just over 15 percent of all migrants apprehended at the Southwest border by Border Patrol, compared to almost 56 percent of those apprehended in FY 2019.

There are likely a number of reasons for this decrease, not least of which is a crackdown by the Mexican government at its own southern border (described by then-Acting Homeland Security Kevin McAleenan in September 2019), and MPP itself.

The first has made it more difficult for any migrants to make it north to the United States, and logically dissuaded parents from bringing children on that perilous trek.

The second has reduced the incentives for those parents to use their children as pawns to gain entry into the United States by exploiting the Flores loophole. If those parents are returned to Mexico under the MPP, they will never be detained long enough for their release to be mandated under the Flores settlement agreement.

The number of FMUs deemed inadmissible at the Southwest ports of entry also fell in February, likely as a result of the same factors. A total of 2,497 FMUs were found to be inadmissible at those ports by CBP officers last month, down from 3,071 in January. That said, just over 35 percent of the inadmissible aliens at those ports last month were FMUs, and FMUs represent almost 42 percent of inadmissibles in FY 2020. On the bright side, this means that FMUs are using the relatively safe option of presenting themselves at the ports of entry, as opposed to seeking the much more dangerous route of illegal entry.

The numbers for March will likely be out in two weeks. Given the closure of the Mexican border to most non-essential travel as a result of the Wuhan flu, and the administration's statement on March 20 that it would expeditiously return all aliens entering illegally or without proper documents, I would expect the numbers this month to reach historic lows.