Biden administration to allow asylum seekers at Matamoros camp in Mexico entry to U.S.

Homeland Security says "addressing humanitarian needs in Matamoros has become a priority" for the Biden administration.

The Department of Homeland Security said Wednesday morning that the U.S. will begin processing residents of the Matamoros migrant camp in Mexico for entry into the U.S.

The department said the humanitarian effort will begin this week, in response to the camp, on the Texas border, recently having been hard hit by extreme weather in northern Mexico.

The camp, across the Rio Grande from Brownsville, Texas, is home to about 1,000 migrants, most from Central America, hoping to be granted refuge across the border. They have endured sub-zero temperatures over the last week while living in flimsy tents, according to Reuters.

"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.

The statement came after DHS abruptly canceled plans last Monday to bring asylum seekers into Texas at two ports of entry. It also said new arrivals at the camp will not gain entry into the United States through this limited process.

The statement also said the U.S. will work in partnership with the Mexico government and "partners on the ground to facilitate the safe processing of current camp residents who qualify for this program."

The department also said the registration and processing of the camp members will be done as quickly as possible with strict enforcement of health and safety protocols, including those for COVID, and the most vulnerable prioritized for immediate review. 

Department officials, in issuing the statement, also appear to make clear the effort was not a sign the administration intends to open its borders.

The government – at all levels – has been clear: Individuals should not believe smugglers or others claiming the border is now open. The Administration will enforce existing immigration laws,” the statement reads.

Some camp residents have lived at the camp for more than a year under former President Trump’s Migrant Protection Protocols (MPP) program requiring asylum seekers to wait in Mexico for U.S. court hearings.

The Biden administration has said a new process will gradually begin to allow thousands of MPP asylum seekers to await courts’ decisions within the United States, Reuters also reports.