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“Remain in Mexico” migrants will have to travel 340 miles for U.S. hearings

Washington — Under an expansion of the controversial like the MPP program, which has required more than 56,000 asylum-seeker to wait in Mexico for the duration of their U.S. immigration proceedings.

But the policy had drawn strong criticism from advocates who point to the squalid and often dangerous living conditions many migrants face as they wait for their U.S. court hearings in Mexican border cities plagued by crime and insecurity.

Tens of thousands of asylum-seekers from Central America and other Latin American countries have been sent by the U.S. to cities like Matamoros and Nuevo Laredo, located in Tamaulipas, a Mexican border state the U.S. government warns Americans not to visit because of rampant criminal activity, including kidnappings, sexual assaults and murders.

Migrants returned to Nogales will be in the state of Sonora, which the State Department designates a hub for crime, human trafficking and drug trade in its travel warning for the area. Like in many other parts of Mexico, warring cartels vie for control of the drug trade in Sonora.

Last month, six members of a Mormon community with dual American and Mexican citizenship, including three children, were ambushed and massacred in Sonora. Mexican authorities have suggested that a drug cartel was responsible for the killings.

In addition to the security concerns, Reichlin-Melnick, the immigration policy expert, said that having migrants returned to Nogales appear before a judge in El Paso further strains the resources of the immigration court in the Texas border city. According to Syracuse University’s Transactional Records Access Clearinghouse (TRAC), the El Paso immigration court has more than 16,000 “Remain in Mexico” cases — the highest of any court participating in the program.

“Rather than address the fact that MPP has crippled the El Paso immigration court, the Department of Homeland Security’s response is to pile on more cases,” Reichlin-Melnick said.

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