Now Over 8,000 MPP Cases Transferred Into United States Under Biden

As of the end of April 2021, a total of 8,387 individuals formerly forced to remain in Mexico under the Migrant Protection Protocols (MPP) have been able to enter the United States since President Biden ended this Trump-era program[1]. TRAC previously reported that by the end of March 3,911 individuals had been allowed to enter the U.S. under a phased process. During April, the pace picked up so that by the end of last month entrants had increased to 8,387—more than double the previous total which had covered transfers during February and March. According to court records, as of the end of April a total of 18,087 individuals still remain in Mexico and have not yet been allowed to enter the U.S.

These findings come from analysis conducted by the Transactional Records Access Clearinghouse (TRAC) at Syracuse University. Results are based on comparing MPP court records at the end of January 2021 matched with those from the end of April 2021. TRAC analyzed this matched MPP case cohort to track the Biden administration's phased process of allowing individuals entry into the U.S.

Pace of Transfers Varied by Location

MPP cases assigned to the Brownsville, Texas hearing location continued to show the highest proportion of individuals allowed to enter the U.S.: 45 percent. However, MPP cases from Laredo, Texas which had been scheduled to start its processing over a month later made up a lot of lost ground by the end of April. Only 3 percent of its cases had been transferred into the U.S. at the end of March to await their Immigration Court hearings. But by the end of April this had jumped to 28 percent, vaulting ahead of rates in the San Ysidro MPP Court which had been scheduled to start processing cases the earliest. Laredo's rate was also close behind the proportion at the El Paso MPP court which also had been scheduled to start processing transfers more than a month earlier. See Figure 1 and Table 1.

Figure 1. Individuals with Pending MPP Immigration Court Cases Allowed to Enter U.S., January 31, 2021 - April 30, 2021
(Click for larger image)
Table 1. Transfer of Individuals with Pending Immigration Court Cases From MPP Hearing Locations Into the U.S. During February - April 2021
MPP Immigration Court Hearing Location
End of January
Pending Cases as of:* Cases Transferred as of:** Total Percent Transferred
End of March End of April End of March End of April
MPP Court El Paso 10,825 10,830 1,357 3,362 31.0%
MPP Brownsville Gateway International Bridge 6,207 6,211 1,719 2,784 44.8%
MPP Laredo, Texas - Port of Entry 3,408 3,426 102 948 27.7%
MPP Court San Ysidro Port 3,217 3,226 467 748 23.2%
MPP Court Calexico Port 2,775 2,781 266 545 19.6%
Total** 26,432 26,474 3,911 8,387 **31.7%
* Increase since March reflects formerly closed MPP cases that were reopened during April.
** An additional 2,988 now pending MPP cases, due to special circumstances, had been allowed to enter the country during the Trump administration to await their court hearings.

Not only were processing rates highest from the MPP courts in El Paso and Brownsville, but the sheer number of individuals transferred into the U.S. from these two MPP courts were the greatest. Transfers into the U.S. from the MPP courts in El Paso and Brownsville accounted for nearly three out of every four individuals (73%) allowed to enter the U.S. This was due in part to the much larger volume of MPP cases pending there.

Pace of Transfers Varied by How Long Cases Had Been Pending

MPP court locations also showed very different priorities assigned to cases that had been waiting the longest versus shortest periods of time. Laredo, Texas and San Ysidro, California MPP courts tended to follow a 'first in-first processed' pattern.

In contrast, for individuals in the MPP courts in El Paso, Texas and Calexico, California, cases tended to prioritize more recent arrivals. In El Paso, for example, only 15 percent of individuals who had been waiting since FY 2019 had been allowed into the U.S., as compared with 52 percent of those arriving at the border in FY 2020 and 66 percent allowed into the U.S. who had just arrived during FY 2021 (October 2020-January 2021). The Calexico MPP court showed a very similar pattern with 19 percent processed into U.S. for those waiting since FY 2019, 48 percent processed for FY 2020, and 67 percent processed for arrivals in FY 2021. See Table 2.

Table 2. Processing Rates for Individuals Allowed into U.S. from February - April 2021 Depending Upon How Long MPP Case Pending
MPP Immigration Court Hearing Location MPP Cases Pending Percent Allowed into U.S. by Date of NTA
End of January FY 2019 FY 2020 FY 2021
MPP Court El Paso 10,830 15% 52% 66%
MPP Brownsville Gateway International Bridge 6,211 48% 18% 40%
MPP Laredo, Texas - Port of Entry 3,426 58% 21% 29%
MPP Court San Ysidro Port 3,226 38% 11% 10%
MPP Court Calexico Port 2,781 19% 48% 67%
Total 26,474 39% 20% 35%

Pace of Transfers by Nationality

Around half of individuals from Venezuela (51%) and Cuba (46%) with pending MPP cases had been paroled into the U.S. to awaiting their Immigration Court hearings by the end of April. In contrast, much lower percentages of people from Guatemala (19%), Peru (17%), Brazil (13%) and Ecuador (4%) with pending MPP cases had made their way into the U.S. by the same time. See Figure 2.and Table 3.

Figure 2. Individuals by Nationality with Pending MPP Immigration Court Cases Allowed to Enter U.S. from February - April 2021
(Click for larger image)

Part of this difference may be explained by the higher concentration of Venezuelans and Cubans assigned to MPP courts in Texas, where the speed of processing of transfers was much higher than in the California MPP courts. See Table 4. Individuals from Peru, Brazil and Ecuador experienced among the lowest transfer rates even though their cases were similarly concentrated in Texas MPP courts, indicating that court location did not provide a full explanation of the disparities.

Some of these differences can be explained by the timing of when different nationality groups arrived. The picture is somewhat complicated since, as we saw above, the impact of arrival times varied by MPP court in determining whether persons who waited longer periods of time were processed first or last. For example, two out of three (68%) Guatemalans had arrived at the southwest border during FY 2019. However, few individuals from Peru, Brazil or Ecuador had arrived in this early wave during FY 2019. And nearly half (45%) of Nicaraguans assigned to MPP arrived very recently (October 2020 - January 2021). This means that who is being allowed to enter the United States is conditioned by which point of entry they went to and when (during the life of MPP) they arrived. See Table 5 and compare with Tables 2-4.

Table 3. Transfer of Individuals by Nationality with Pending Immigration Court Cases From MPP Hearing Locations Into the U.S. During February - April 2021
Nationality Pending MPP Cases Transferred by End of April
Number Percent Number Rate*
Cuba 7,593 28.7% 3,473 45.7%
Honduras 5,864 22.2% 1,792 30.6%
Guatemala 4,483 16.9% 848 18.9%
Ecuador 2,557 9.7% 105 4.1%
El Salvador 1,935 7.3% 732 37.8%
Venezuela 1,663 6.3% 854 51.4%
Nicaragua 1,355 5.1% 380 28.0%
Brazil 584 2.2% 74 12.7%
Peru 116 0.4% 20 17.2%
Colombia 114 0.4% 31 27.2%
Other 210 0.8% 78 37.1%
Total 26,474 100.0% 8,387 31.7%
* Percent of cases assigned to MPP courts at the end of January 2021 that had been transferred to a hearing location within the U.S. by the end of March 2021.
Table 4. Pending Immigration Court Cases by Nationality and MPP Hearing Location at end of January 2021
Nationality Pending MPP Cases Percent in MPP Hearing Locations at:
El Paso Brownsville Laredo San Ysidro Calexico Total %
Cuba 7,593 57% 26% 11% 2% 4% 100%
Honduras 5,864 24% 25% 17% 23% 12% 100%
Guatemala 4,483 29% 13% 3% 21% 34% 100%
Ecuador 2,557 73% 15% 8% 2% 3% 100%
El Salvador 1,935 24% 36% 10% 25% 5% 100%
Venezuela 1,663 27% 24% 40% 6% 2% 100%
Nicaragua 1,355 21% 47% 19% 11% 3% 100%
Brazil 584 97% 0% 0% 2% 1% 100%
Peru 116 36% 36% 15% 12% 1% 100%
Colombia 114 54% 22% 5% 17% 2% 100%
Other 210 33% 31% 30% 3% 4% 100%
Total 26,474 41% 23% 13% 12% 10% 100%
Table 5. Nationalities Allowed into U.S. During February - April 2021 Depending Upon How Long MPP Case Pending
Nationality MPP Cases Pending Percent Allowed into U.S. by Date of NTA
FY 2019 FY 2020 FY 2021 Total NTAs
Cuba 7,604 34% 47% 19% 100%
Honduras 5,874 58% 41% 0% 100%
Guatemala 4,484 68% 32% 1% 100%
Ecuador 2,558 5% 74% 21% 100%
El Salvador 1,938 55% 45% 0% 100%
Venezuela 1,663 26% 56% 18% 100%
Nicaragua 1,356 20% 35% 45% 100%
Brazil 585 0% 67% 33% 100%
Peru 116 9% 53% 38% 100%
Colombia 114 17% 46% 37% 100%
Other 182 9% 46% 37% 100%
All Nationalities 26,474 42% 46% 12% 100%

Asylum-Seekers Inside United States More Likely to Have an Attorney

Given the complexity of immigration law and the asylum process, immigration attorneys have been shown to play a central role in the process and outcome of asylum cases. TRAC previously found that asylum-seekers who obtain an attorney are five times more likely to be granted asylum. TRAC also found that very few asylum seekers in MPP were represented by an attorney.

Updated data through the end of April 2021 shows that the likelihood of asylum seekers being represented by an attorney increases after the person is paroled into the United States and increases the longer the person is in the United States. For this section, we include cases that were transferred to a non-MPP court prior to January to illustrate how more time in the United States contributes to the likelihood of obtaining representation.

Of the nearly 3,000 individuals with pending cases in MPP who were paroled into the country on or before January 31 of this year, 44 percent of them now showed a record of an attorney on file. For cases paroled in February through April, this number was lower at 19 percent, but still higher than the 9 percent of those still in Mexico who had an attorney.

Figure 3. Percent of Pending MPP Immigration Court Cases with Representation (as of April 2021)
(Click for larger image)

Although representation rates among MPP cases have been low, having an attorney in itself may have made it more likely for migrants to be aware of and to complete the required MPP registration process through the UNHCR's Conecta website. Only individuals who registered were considered for transfer. Moreover, the percent of these cases with representation may increase over time, between now and the time their cases are heard and decided. For comparison, 80 percent of the asylum cases of the nearly 60,000 cases decided in FY 2020 were represented by an attorney (see also TRAC's asylum decisions tool here).

Where Inside the U.S. Did MPP Cases Go?

A total of 74 different hearing locations across the country received MPP transferred cases during February - April 2021. Florida proved to be the most popular location that the 8,387 MPP entrants transferred their cases to, followed by Texas. In fact, fully 31 percent of cases—nearly one in three—transferred to either Miami, Florida (1,791 cases) or Orlando, Florida (808 cases). The hearing location in Dallas, Texas received the third most transferred cases (443), following by Houston, Texas (S. Gessner) with 335. San Antonio, Texas was in fifth place with 324.

Other hearing locations in Georgia, California, Virginia, and New Jersey also were among the top ten. Table 6 provides a complete list of Immigration Court hearing locations where individuals transferred their cases.

Table 6. Hearing Locations in U.S. Individuals with Pending MPP Immigration Court Cases Transferred During February - April 2021
Immigration Court Hearing Location MPP
Cases Transferred
Cases Transferred as of:
End of March End of April
All 3,911 8,387
Miami, Florida 651 1,791
Orlando, Florida 321 808
Dallas, Texas 201 443
Houston - S. Gessner 144 335
San Antonio, Texas 135 324
Houston Greenspoint Park 117 316
Atlanta, Georgia 131 250
Los Angeles, California 139 248
Arlington, Virginia 143 229
Newark, New Jersey 134 228
Charlotte 115 216
Baltimore, Maryland 126 208
Memphis, Tennessee 137 207
Chicago, Illinois 101 199
San Francisco, California 114 197
Louisville, Kentucky 69 176
Boston, Massachusetts 86 170
New Orleans, Louisiana 89 165
Las Vegas, Nevada 66 161
Houston, Texas 83 155
Denver, Colorado 64 112
Omaha, Nebraska 51 111
New York City, New York 54 110
El Paso, Texas 19 107
Van Nuys Immigration Court 63 104
Philadelphia, Pennsylvania 58 99
New York Varick 58 98
Salt Lake City, Utah 28 88
New York Broadway 45 77
Harlingen, Texas 43 70
Phoenix, Arizona 24 66
Kansas City, Missouri 32 56
Seattle, Washington 30 53
Hartford, Connecticut 23 48
Cleveland, Ohio 20 47
Los Angeles - North Los Angeles Street 34 47
Bloomington 21 30
Detroit, Michigan 12 29
Portland, Oregon 8 27
San Diego, California 22 24
Buffalo, New York 8 22
Leland Federal Building 14 20
San Antonio Satellite Office 3 16
Unnamed 10 14
Portland, Oregon - POO 15 13
Tucson, Arizona 5 11
Port Isabel Service Processing Center 7 9
Sacramento Immigration Court 7 8
Arlington Detained Location 0 5
Honolulu, Hawaii 4 4
San Francisco Annex 4 4
MIA Non-Detained Juveniles 0 4
Pearsall, Texas - Detention Facility 4 3
San Francisco Non-Detained Juveniles 2 2
Eloy INS Detention Center 1 2
El Paso Juvenile Detained 1 2
Pittsburgh, Pennsylvania 1 2
Boise, Idaho 0 2
San Antonio Detained Juvenile 0 2
La Palma Correctional Center 3 1
Boston Detained 2 1
Conroe Immigration Court 1 1
Newark Detained DOCket 1 1
Pittsburgh Detained Juveniles 1 1
San Juan, Puerto Rico 1 1
Denver Family Unit 0 1
Imperial, California 0 1
The Villages, Inc. 0 1
Otero County Processing Center 0 1
San Antonio Non-Detained Juvenile 0 1
San Diego Non-Detained Juvenile 0 1
Southwest Key Sunzal 0 1
La Palma 3 0
Laredo, Texas - Detention Facility 1 0
Houston Female Detained 1 0

How TRAC Identified Cases for This Study

TRAC's MPP analysis identified cases that were initially assigned to one of the Immigration Courts designated as an MPP hearing location along the U.S.-Mexico border in the Executive Office for Immigration Review's (EOIR) internal court records[1]. Once a case has been filed at an MPP court, TRAC is able to follow the life of the case over time. For this report, TRAC analyzed MPP cases at the end of January, matched them with case-by-case court records at the end of April, and then identified cases that had been transferred to a non-MPP court. Due to anticipated delays between the time that an asylum seeker is paroled into the United States and the time that the court case is reassigned (i.e. transferred) to a court near that person's final destination, this approach may not necessarily capture all cases where parole has been granted.

Tables in this report focus upon MPP pending cases (29,462). This included all cases that had been pending at the end of January (29,148), plus an additional 314 closed cases that had reopened during the February - April 2021 period. Of these, 26,474 cases individuals were still waiting outside the U.S. at the end of January when President Biden assumed office. A total of 2,988 MPP cases of the pending total of 29,462 had already transferred into the U.S. during President Trump's administration[2].


[1] EOIR also established a flag for MPP cases but this wasn't consistently used. As a cross-check, TRAC identified MPP cases if a case was identified either by this flag or assignment to a MPP hearing location.

[2] This report includes additional MPP cases closed at the end of March that were reopened during April. These newly reopened cases were not included in TRAC's earlier report based on their status at the end of March.

TRAC is a nonpartisan, nonprofit data research center affiliated with the Newhouse School of Public Communications and the Whitman School of Management, both at Syracuse University. For more information, to subscribe, or to donate, contact or call 315-443-3563.