Advocates also want the Biden administration to cancel a measure that allows border authorities to quickly expel migrants when they cross the border, including those seeking asylum. Trump administration officials had argued this was needed to prevent the spread of the coronavirus in detention centers.
Aides to Mr. Biden have said he eventually intends to abolish some if not all of these rules and will resume processing asylum seekers at ports of entry along the border. But they have cautioned that the process will begin slowly.
Still, migrants and their advocates said they hope that the administration will move quickly to at least allow the re-entry of those Remain in Mexico migrants now stuck in Mexico. Since the policy took effect in January 2019, some of the estimated 60,000 migrants who have been forced to wait in Mexico have been subjected to muggings, kidnap, sexual assault and other crimes.
Some have given up and returned to their home countries, but according to the Transactional Records Access Clearinghouse, a research group at Syracuse University, there are officially still more than 28,000 people left in the program, with many living in migrant shelters, overcrowded rented rooms, cheap hotels and the Matamoros tent camp.
“I hope that this man is going to help us, that he’s going to let us fight for asylum from inside the country,” Yakelyn Azucena Aragón Estrada, 34, a Guatemalan migrant in the Remain in Mexico program who, since 2019, has been waiting with her young son in Tijuana.
“Because here there’s no security, there’s a lot of crime,” she said.
The burden of tamping down expectations has fallen to migrants’ advocates and migration officials in the region, as they also deal with a growing number of northbound migrants.
“The constant message is: Don’t get impatient,” said Enrique Valenzuela, coordinator of the population council in the Mexican state of Chihuahua, which oversees statewide migrant issues. “The population finds itself in an uncertain situation, everyone waiting. But things aren’t going to change from one day to the next.”
Nic Wirtz contributed reporting from Guatemala City and Michael D. Shear from Washington.