US President Joe Biden's administration announced on Friday that asylum seekers forced to remain in Mexico while their cases are being resolved in the United States will begin to be admitted into the country as of next week, reported AFP.
The Department of Homeland Security (DHS) was instructed by Biden earlier this month to take action to end the controversial "Remain in Mexico" program put in place by his predecessor Donald Trump.
The program saw tens of thousands of non-Mexican asylum seekers sent back over the border pending the outcome of their asylum applications that has created a humanitarian crisis in the area, exacerbated by the COVID-19 pandemic.
In a statement, the agency said, "Beginning on February 19, the Department of Homeland Security (DHS) will begin phase one of a program to restore safe and orderly processing at the southwest border."
According to the agency, there are still approximately 25,000 active cases and candidates will be tested first for the coronavirus, a senior DHS official told reporters.
According to the NGO American Immigration Council, almost 70,000 people were returned to Mexico under the agreement from January 2019, when the program began to be implemented, through December 2020.
DHS chief Alejandro Mayorkas, who is the first Latino and the first immigrant to head the department, said that Washington is committed to "rebuilding a safe, orderly and humane immigration system."
He said, "This latest action is another step in our commitment to reform immigration policies that do not align with our nation's values."
The program was part of Trump's hardline plan to fight illegal immigration, one of the hallmarks of his administration and which included efforts to build a border wall and the policy which separated children from thousands of migrant families.
After Biden took office on January 20, his administration announced that it would reverse the most controversial measures and created a task force to reunite families that remain separated, a policy his administration has termed a "national shame."
On the day Biden was inaugurated, the DHS announced the suspension of new registrations in the "Remain in Mexico" program and asked all those enrolled to stay where they are while waiting to be informed about their cases.
Washington said on Friday that those waiting "should not approach the border until instructed to do so."