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'Remain in Mexico' program for asylum-seekers resumes

This policy requires migrants seeking asylum to wait outside the United States for their immigration court hearings.

SAN DIEGO COUNTY, Calif. — Tens of thousands of asylum seekers have been subject to the policy which then President Donald Trump introduced January of 2019. 

"It will force migrants to have to wait in Mexico that in the past has jeopardized their wellbeing," said Pedro Rios, director of American Friends Service Committee. 

Starting Monday, the Migrant Protection Protocols or otherwise known as "Remain in Mexico" will take effect. This policy requires migrants seeking asylum to wait outside the United States for their immigration court hearings. 

This is something Rios said he's worried about.

"There have been thousands of cases people who have been under this program suffered all sorts of mistreatment by Mexican law enforcement agencies but also by people who are profiting off of causing harm to migrants who are waiting to be processed in the U.S.," said Rios. 

"There are many cases of people that have been kidnapped and held for ransom. People have been sexually assaulted, including kids. There are cases where people have been killed," explained Rios. 

Rios said the Department of Homeland Security told immigration advocates that the policy started Monday at the El Paso Port of Entry and San Diego is expected to see the program sometime next week.

President Biden suspended the policy calling it inhumane, but last August a federal judge in Texas ordered it reinstated. 

"Our view of the program has not changed. We're working to implement under the court order'" said Jen Psaki, White House press secretary. 

The court ruling said the program could only start back up again if Mexico agreed to participate, but immigration rights activists say more could've been done to avoid resuming it. 

"We're seeing an increasing program that will be brought in the Biden administration despite the fact that his administration has been against it," said Rios. 

The rules will come with some changes. The government will have to provide COVID-19 vaccines to migrants waiting for their hearing. It will have to ensure shelters are safe and secure, make sure each case takes no longer than six months and provide better access to legal counsel. 

President Biden has also outlined exemptions to the program similar to those the Trump administration used, including people with disabilities and the elderly.

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