In a press release, DHS Secretary Alejandro Mayorkas reiterated that President Biden is trying to move to a less onerous immigration policy.
“As President Biden has made clear, the U.S. government is committed to rebuilding a safe, orderly, and humane immigration system,” Mayorkas said. “This latest action is another step in our commitment to reform immigration policies that do not align with our nation’s values.”
However, Mayorkas stipulated that the coronavirus pandemic, “restrictions at the border remain in place and will be enforced.”
He also directed those who were not enrolled in the MPP program or who do not have active immigration court cases to await “further instructions.”
DHS will create an online registration portal for those who desire to take advantage of the administration’s program to admit them into the U.S.
Though Biden has been sharply critical of former President Trump’s immigration policies, DHS indicated that stringent immigration procedures are still in effect.
“The announcement should not be interpreted as an opening for people to migrate irregularly to the United States. Eligible individuals will only be allowed to enter through designated ports of entry at designated times,” the press release said.
The Biden administration recently faced criticism from Republican lawmakers in a letter led by Rep. Chip Roy (R-TX-21) that condemned the president for halting the MPP program and cautioned against suspending the COVID-19 regulations.
Instituted under Trump, the MPP program requires illegal immigrants to wait in Mexico while their cases work their way through the immigration system.
According to information provided by DHS when the program was first announced, family units comprise an increasing proportion of illegal immigrants, which makes the immigration system more complicated and vulnerable to malicious actors.
Then led by Secretary Kirstjen Nielsen, the department asserted that “misguided court decisions and outdated laws” enable human smugglers and drug traffickers to take advantage of the system by traveling with unaccompanied minors and family units.
“Human smugglers and traffickers exploit migrants and seek to turn human misery into profit,” DHS said at the time. “Transnational criminal organizations and gangs are also deliberately exploiting the situation to bring drugs, violence, and illicit goods into American communities.”
Since then, the demographics of illegal border crossings have shifted from being driven largely by family units from Central American countries to single adults from Mexico, though the number of single adults from Central America has also been on the rise.
Though the Biden administration said there are 25,000 people remaining with “active cases” who were sent back to Mexico under the MPP, it did not disclose how many cases the Trump administration had processed since instituting the program.
The administration stated it will test individuals for the coronavirus before bringing them back to the U.S. under this new directive, though Sheriff A.J. Louderback of Jackson County stated this week that there are illegal immigrants at large who were not tested prior to their release.
“The United States and our partners will employ all necessary safety precautions in accordance with the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC) guidance, including mandatory face coverings and social distancing. Individuals processed through this program will be tested for COVID-19 before entering the United States,” DHS said.
“DHS will only process individuals consistent with its capacity to safely do so while fully executing its important national security and trade and travel facilitation missions.”