Migrant tent facility for virtual courtrooms going up

BROWNSVILLE — Within days of the “Remain in Mexico” policy being implemented by the Trump administration, the tent facility that will be used as virtual courtrooms to house immigration proceedings for asylum seekers is being built in Brownsville at the Gateway International Bridge.

The tent will house immigration proceedings with judges video conferencing in from courtrooms located throughout the United States.

“The federal government has begun the process of developing temporary, soft-sided structures to serve as MPP (Migrant Protection Protocols) hearing only sites, in order to address the limitations of the current immigration court locations,” the Department of Homeland Security (DHS) said in a statement.

The plans are to take asylum seekers to their court hearings and take them back to Mexico while they wait for a final decision to be reached on their case. The Associated Press reported that more than 20,000 asylum seekers have been sent back to Mexico, and thousands more are on wait lists just to get to the front of the line to get an asylum interview.

“The expansion of MPP will exceed the capacity at existing immigration courts, requiring DHS and DOJ (Department of Justice) to establish additional court space in and around the Ports of Entry. Building new soft-sided hearing locations will allow the Executive Office for Immigration Review (EOIR) to address MPP dockets in a more targeted manner, resulting in cases being completed more efficiently,” the statement reads.

DHS said building permanent immigration courts would take more time and limit flexibility in responding to changing migratory patterns. DHS is evaluating options for additional locations along the Southwest Border where these temporary structures would provide immediate relief.