Feb. 12 (UPI) -- The Biden administration next week will start allowing migrants and refugees to wait out their immigration cases in the United States -- instead of Mexico or another Latin American nation, as ordered by former President Donald Trump.
The Homeland Security Department said late Thursday it is about to begin processing asylum-seekers and allow them to live in the United States until their cases are settled.
The "Remain in Mexico" plan started by Trump in early 2019 denied U.S. entry to tens of thousands of migrants and refugees -- and was criticized by some human rights advocates who said many had no shelter during their wait and were often targeted by violence.
The change in policy will allow 600 refugees to enter the United States per day. The department said 25,000 are waiting near the border for word on their applications.The department called the move another step in a phased strategy to reform the U.S. immigration system.
"This latest action is another step in our commitment to reform immigration policies that do not align with our nation's values," Homeland Security Secretary Alejandro Mayorkas said in a statement Thursday. "Especially at the border, however, where capacity constraints remain serious, changes will take time."
Mayorkas emphasized that only migrants who have a case pending in the courts will be allowed to enter the United States. Those who don't will not be admitted.
The department said there will soon be a virtual registration process for those who want to cross the border legally.
"This announcement should not be interpreted as an opening for people to migrate irregularly to the United States," it said. "Eligible individuals will only be allowed to enter through designated ports of entry at designated times."
Earlier this month, Biden signed multiple executive orders to reform immigration policy. One of the directives ordered federal agencies to reunite migrant families that had been separated under Trump's "zero tolerance" policy.
"As President Biden has made clear, the U.S. government is committed to rebuilding a safe, orderly, and humane immigration system," Mayorkas added.