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Asylum seekers wait on the international bridge from Mexico to the U.S. next to the border town of Matamoros, Mexico. Photo: John Moore via Getty Images

The Biden administration will soon slowly begin allowing asylum seekers forced to wait in Mexican border towns under former President Trump's "Remain in Mexico" policy to enter the U.S., the Department of Homeland Security announced Friday.

Why it matters: President Biden has promised to end the Trump administration's Migrant Protection Protocols program, as it is formally called, which forced tens of thousands of migrants into dangerous, squalid conditions in Mexico as they awaited court proceedings. DHS estimates that there are about 25,000 migrants in the MPP program who have active immigration court cases.

Details: Beginning Feb. 19, the Biden administration will begin "phase one of a program to restore safe and orderly processing at the southwest border," DHS said.

  • According to administration officials, DHS and the Justice Department will work with the Mexican government and international organizations to identify migrants with active cases and help them virtually register for processing at three yet to be announced ports of entry.
  • Once registered, eligible individuals will be provided additional information about where and when to present themselves, DHS said.
  • At the border, migrants will be tested for the coronavirus before they enter the U.S. If they test positive, they will not be able to cross until they test negative.
  • Once migrants are on U.S. soil, most will be enrolled in "alternative detention," and will be expected to attend scheduled court hearings, according to officials.
    • Of note: The officials did not specify what alternative detention will look like, but said detention centers are not in the picture.
  • The administration is prioritizing people who have had the longest active cases, as well as vulnerable populations. It intends to process around 300 individuals per day at each of the two main ports. Officials did not elaborate on how many migrants will be processed at the third port of entry.

The big picture: The MPP program was implemented in early 2019, when border crossings topped 100,000 per month.

  • Rights groups and many Democrats criticized the policy, saying it forced asylum seekers into dangerous conditions.
  • Biden has already stopped new enrollments in the MPP program.

What they're saying: “As President Biden has made clear, the U.S. government is committed to rebuilding a safe, orderly, and humane immigration system,” Secretary of Homeland Security Alejandro Mayorkas said in a press release Friday.

  • “This latest action is another step in our commitment to reform immigration policies that do not align with our nation’s values. Especially at the border, however, where capacity constraints remain serious, changes will take time," he added.
  • "Individuals who are not eligible under this initial phase should wait for further instructions and not travel to the border.  Due to the current pandemic, restrictions at the border remain in place and will be enforced.”

Go deeper: Biden signs order creating task force to reunite families separated at border

Go deeper

Feb 11, 2021 - Politics & Policy

Biden rescinds national emergency proclamation Trump used to fund border wall

Border wall construction in New Mexico. Photo: Jordyn Rozensky and Justin Hamel for The Washington Post via Getty Images

President Biden informed Congress on Thursday that he has terminated the national emergency over the U.S.-Mexico border that former President Trump first declared in Feb. 2019.

Why it matters: Trump used the national emergency proclamation to divert billions of dollars in Pentagon funds toward building a border wall, after it became clear that Congress was opposed to additional funding. The declaration prompted dozens of lawsuits and attempts by Congress to block Trump from fulfilling one his top 2016 campaign promises.

Biden announces new Pentagon task force on China

Biden at the Pentagon, being introduced by Sec. Lloyd Austin. Photo;Alex Brandon/AP Photo/Bloomberg via Getty

President Biden used a visit to the Pentagon on Wednesday to announce a new department-wide task force to "chart a strong path forward on China-related matters."

Why it matters: Biden is emphasizing early in his tenure that China will be a top priority.

Republican Sen. Sasse slams Nebraska GOP for "weird worship" of Trump after state party rebuke

Sen. Ben Sasse, (R-Neb.) Photo: Andrew Harnik - Pool/Getty Images

The Nebraska Republican Party on Saturday formally "rebuked" Sen. Ben Sasse (R-Neb.) for his vote to impeach former President Trump earlier this year, though it stopped short of a formal censure, CNN reports.

Why it matters: Sasse is the latest among a slate of Republicans who have faced some sort of punishment from their state party apparatus after voting to impeach the former president. The senator responded statement Saturday, per the Omaha World-Herald, saying "most Nebraskans don't think politics should be about the weird worship of one dude."

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