DHS chief: 'Remain in Mexico' initiative partially responsible for 8 months in a row of declining apprehensions

Acting Director of U.S. Citizenship and Immigration Services Ken Cuccinelli said Friday that the drop in apprehensions on the U.S.-Mexico border can be credited to Migrant Protection Protocols (MPP) among other factors. 

According to Cuccinelli, the Department of Homeland Security has processed 60,000 people under MPP, which went into effect in January 2019. The policy, colloquially referred to as the “remain in Mexico” initiative, requires migrants seeking asylum in the U.S. to await their court dates on the Mexican side of the border. 

Mexican authorities using U.S. resources began offering housing for migrants in December, though immigrant rights groups have said that conditions are subpar. Cuccinelli called Mexico an “outstanding partner” in their operations.

“It’s hard to measure how many may have been deterred from coming to the southern border, but we just had our 8th month in a row of declining apprehensions and inadmissible turnaways at the southern border,” Cuccinelli said. “Eight months in a row ties a modern record; I think you have to go back to 1992 to see that many months at the same time.”

Before MPP, those seeking asylum were held in detention centers until they were eventually released within the U.S. to await their court date, which is often months or even years later.

In Mexico, asylum-seekers wait in tents set up by the port of entry until their court date. Volunteers — and often politicians — provide meals and toiletries for them. The situation leaves them vulnerable to cartel violence.

Cuccinelli claims the reason fewer people are seeking asylum is the word of low case approval has “spread throughout Central America, that’s where the deterrence arises.” 

“A lot of those folks are realizing, ‘Gosh, since I don’t really have a case, I’m not going to do very well here,’ some of them go home, some of them carry their cases throughout,” he said.