Resilience Refugees

0.1 percent of immigrants receive asylum at the border

mexico u.s. border remain in asylum crime U.S. Border patrol Department of homeland security immigrants loss decrease kidnapped killed 0.1 percent seekers
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Story at a glance

  • Out of 47,000 immigrants in the Migrant Protection Protocols (MPP), only 11 were granted asylum, a rate of 0.1 percent.
  • Experts say that the policy is intended to deter immigrants from seeking asylum in the first place.
  • On top of bureaucratic roadblocks, rising crime along the border has contributed to the decrease, as some asylum seekers have disappeared or been killed.

The new immigration policy aimed at curtailing asylum seekers is proving extremely effective; only 0.1 percent of asylum requests have been granted since September. 

The U.S. asylum policy has been dramatically amended this past year; the new Migrant Protection Protocols (MPP), colloquially known as Remain in Mexico, instructs asylum seekers with pending immigration court cases to spend the duration of their legal proceedings in Mexico. 

Experts say the policy has made it nearly impossible for Central American immigrants to receive asylum in the U.S. These procedures include “metering” or “turnbacks,” further meant to control and deter immigrants from seeking asylum in the U.S. 

The San-Diego Union Tribune reported that as of September, out of 47,000 people who applied within the MPP, approximately 9,500 completed their cases. Out of that number, 5,085 cases were issued orders of removal while 4,471 cases were dismissed. This leaves 11 cases being granted asylum, amounting to 0.1 percent of all completed cases. 

Aaron Reichlin-Melnick, policy counsel at the American Immigration Council, says part of the reason the numbers are so low is due to the fact that some of the original 47,000 asylum seekers — Reichlin-Melnick estimates there was between 8,000 and 9,000 — have given up their cases, many as a result of rampant crime at the border.

“We have no idea who falls into what category. Nobody keeps track of that,” he said in an interview. He added that the government statistics may not be accurate, as the U.S. Customs and Border Protection recently stated it accidentally double counted immigrant data in one report. 

Even when an immigrant isn’t denied asylum, cases can take months. An applicant named Bryan described bureaucratic obstacles to attain asylum that lasted more than a year. In the end, the prospect of more time at the border caused him to give up.

Reichlin-Melnick thinks that Bryan’s case isn’t accidental, saying that “MPP is about creating obstacles for people to access the legal system.” 

“My gut instinct is by the end of the program, of the 47,000 sent back, a year from now less than 2 to 3 percent will have ever won asylum because of the obstacles the program put in place.”

All immigrants arriving at the southern border who seek asylum are subjected to the MPP, except for unaccompanied minors, individuals with physical or mental health issues, individuals with a criminal record, citizens or nationals of Mexico, or “individuals determined by an Asylum Officer to be ‘more likely than not’ to face torture or persecution in Mexico on the basis of race, religion, nationality, political opinion, or membership in a particular social group,” according to the American Immigration Council.

Reichlin-Melnick says that government officials have confirmed that the MPP is intended for Spanish-speaking countries, citing immigrants from Brazil, Cameroon, or India who are not subject to detainment in Mexico — despite the fact that the MPP doesn’t explicitly exclude these populations. 

“The so-called MPP has created a humanitarian catastrophe at the border and is undermining the rule of law,” says Reichlin-Melnick. 

In defense of the practice, representatives on behalf of the Department of Homeland Security state that the Remain in Mexico policy is deterring immigrants from filing false asylum claims, which allows legitimate claims to be processed.