Federal immigration officials announce plans for resuming "remain in Mexico" hearings during the coronavirus pandemic

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Asylum seekers waited in line to get a meal provided by Team Brownsville near the Gateway International Bridge in Matamoros, Mexico in 2019. The Department of Homeland Security on Friday announced plans for how it will resume hearings for asylum seekers waiting in Mexico for immigration court hearings. Verónica G. Cárdenas for The Texas Tribune

The Department of Homeland Security and the Department of Justice on Friday announced plans for how they will resume hearings for asylum seekers currently in the Migrant Protection Protocols after court dates were postponed because of the COVID-19 pandemic.

The program, also called remain in Mexico, requires that most asylum seekers wait in Mexico for their court dates in front of an American immigration judges. Since the MPP program began in late 2018, more than 60,000 asylum seekers have been sent back to Mexico, including more than 20,000 in the El Paso-Ciudad Juárez area.

It will likely take weeks for the criteria to resume hearings to be met. For Texas it means the state must achieve reopening at a level designated as stage three by Gov. Greg Abbott. The state had reached that level, Abbott announced, when he allowed restaurants to expand their occupancy to 75% capacity and bars to operate at 50% capacity. But he’s since rolled back capacity at eateries and closed bars completely after Texas and more than a dozen states began experiencing surges of cases after reopening.