Under the administrations “remain in Mexico” policy, illegal immigrants who cross the border and claim asylum in Texas are sent back to Mexico to await their court date. However, that policy did not extend to those who illegally crossed into Arizona until today.

Homeland Security officials plan to announce as soon as Friday that they will expand the Migrant Protection Protocols program to the Tucson region, one of the last major areas on the border that has not been diverting asylum seekers to Mexico to await their immigration court hearings.

Officials estimate DHS will send at least one busload each day from U.S. Customs and Border Protection’s Tucson sector to the Texas border city of El Paso, according to the officials, who spoke on the condition of anonymity to discuss the internal plans. Migrants will have interviews to determine if they would be at risk in Mexico, and if not, will be sent to Ciudad Juárez to await their U.S. immigration court hearings.

As the Post pointed out, this gap in the policy was quickly identified by smugglers:

Border Patrol officials continued releasing border crossers into the Tucson sector, and smugglers caught on, U.S. officials said. As family apprehensions plunged elsewhere, they rose more than 33 percent from May to October in the Tucson sector, from 1,700 to nearly 2,400…

More than 200 people — including one large group of 129 people — streamed into remote Sasabe, Ariz., in the Tucson sector, in a span of five hours on Saturday night. Babies swaddled in scarves cuddled against their mothers, according to images CBP released.

The migrants were from Mexico, Guatemala, El Salvador, Honduras and Nicaragua. The oldest was 56. The youngest was 6 months old.

The influx demonstrates the ability of smuggling networks to identify holes on the border, officials said.

Remain in Mexico, officially known as the Migrant Protection Protocols, has been a success. Since border crossings reached a high in May, they have dropped for five consecutive months. DHS published a report at the end of September crediting the program for that decline:

The Sept. 28 report from the Department of Homeland Security (DHS) says MPP has “demonstrated operational effectiveness,” as monthly migrant apprehensions have decreased 64 percent since peaking at 144,000 in May.

“Although MPP is one among many tools that DHS has employed in response to the border crisis, (the federal government) has observed a connection between MPP implementation and decreasing (arrests) at the border, including a rapid and substantial decline” in areas where the program is being implemented, the report states.

As a result of MPP, Border Patrol no longer has to release people into the United States to wait a year or more for their case to be heard by an immigration judge. About 90 percent of those cases will eventually be denied, but many of the migrants never show up for those subsequent hearings. Effectively, once they are within the border they are unlikely to ever be deported regardless of what the asylum judge decides.

Despite the fact that immigrants and smugglers are clearly gaming the US asylum system, including by bringing children along to ensure they are quickly released, Democrats oppose the new policy. It’s future is currently in the hands of the Ninth Circuit Court of Appeals which is expected to issue a ruling on it any day now.