By John Friend
A policy adopted by the Trump administration rough ly one year ago designed to combat the migrant crisis appears to be paying off in a major way at the U.S. border.
The Migrant Protection Protocols (MPP), more commonly known as the “Remain in Mexico” policy, was first adopted in January 2019, and effectively ended the disastrous “catch and release” policy which allowed migrants to enter and settle in the United States—often under dubious or fraudulent pretenses—as they waited for an immigration hearing. The previous “catch and release” policy had long been criticized by those concerned with the egregious exploitation of U.S. asylum and immigration laws. Once inside the U.S., many assumed asylum seekers fail to show up for their hearings, allowing a huge number of individuals and families to go unaccounted for.
“The importance of MPP can’t be stated enough; it is what’s allowed us to take control of the crisis that we saw in April and May,” Acting Homeland Security Secretary Chad Wolf explained to Fox News last December. “The idea is to make sure we process individuals in a timely manner but make sure they wait south of the border.”
The numbers demonstrate just how effectively the policy has worked. In May 2019, at the height of the border crisis, more than 144,000 migrants were apprehended by border patrol and immigration officials. In November 2019, that number dropped to just over 42,000, marking a 70% reduction. Those seeking to exploit U.S. immigration laws recognize that they will not simply be released after encountering customs and border patrol agents.
“The president’s strategy to address the historic flood of Central American family units illegally crossing the border has worked, and catch and release is over,” a Trump administration official recently told Fox News. “We are removing, returning, and repatriating more illegal aliens, including Central American families, than ever before, and illegal border crossing cases are completed faster than ever.”
Over the course of the past year, the Trump administration has also negotiated deals with Guatemala, Honduras, and El Salvador, allowing U.S. officials to send asylum seekers back to these Central American countries. Additionally, a policy adopted in July allows customs officials to deny asylum to migrants who crossed another border before attempting to claim asylum in the U.S.
U.S. Citizenship and Immigration Services Acting Director Ken Cuccinelli has praised the Trump administration’s progress in combating the migrant crisis along the southern U.S. border.
“As an agency, we have worked hand-in-hand with our fellow [Homeland Security] components to answer President Trump’s call to address the ongoing crisis at our southern border,” Cuccinelli stated late last year. “In the face of congressional inaction, we’ve taken significant steps to mitigate the loopholes in our asylum system, combat fraudulent claims, and strengthen the protections we have in place to preserve humanitarian assistance for those truly in need of it.”
Immigration will no doubt continue to be a major political issue, particularly as we enter the 2020 election season. While progress has been made at the border, immigration officials must remain vigilant and determined to enforce the law.
John Friend is a freelance writer based in California.