A tent camp in Matamoros, Mexico, where hundreds of migrants stayed in deplorable conditions after being subject to a Trump-era policy requiring they stay in Mexico until their immigration court date in the US, is being drawn down, the Department of Homeland Security announced Wednesday.
Over recent years, migrants have set up camp in Matamoros awaiting entry to the US. Immigrant advocates called the situation a humanitarian crisis just feet from the US southern border that formed as a result of harsh Trump-era policies.
"The migrant camp in Matamoros has recently been hard hit by extreme weather in northern Mexico. As President Biden continues to rebuild the nation's border management in a way that reflects America's values, addressing humanitarian needs in Matamoros has become a priority," the department said in a statement. "We will work in partnership with the Government of Mexico, and partners on the ground, to facilitate the safe processing of current camp residents who qualify for this program."
New arrivals to the camp will not be allowed entry into the US through this process, DHS said. The registration and process "will be done as quickly as possible" with health and safety protocols in place. Individuals will also complete security screening and Covid-19 testing, according to the department.
Under the Trump administration, migrants, many of whom were from Central America, were forced to remain in Mexico until their immigration court date in the US. The so-called "remain in Mexico" policy, which went into effect January 2019, was an unprecedented departure from previous protocols, which allowed for the entry of migrants as they went through their immigration hearings in the United States.
More than 70,000 people were subject to the program. Many waited months, if not years, in squalid conditions and under the threat of extortion, sexual assault and kidnapping.
The Trump administration set up makeshift courtrooms in Brownsville, just across from Matamoros for migrants to attend their court hearings, resulting in many staying in the camp as they awaited their court date.
Democratic lawmakers launched investigations into the policy and visited the camp, condemning the Trump administration for kicking migrants, including families and children, back to the deteriorating conditions there. In some cases, the situation on the ground resulted in children separating from their families to try to gain entry into the US.
President Joe Biden has called for the end of the policy and started the gradual entry of migrants subject to the Trump-era policy. Last Friday, the administration kicked off the process by admitting 25 migrants who had been forced to stay in Mexico. The clearing out of the Matamoros camp is the latest step in the process.