Tent courts for migrants waiting in Mexico closed to outside

Located a short distance from the Rio Grande, the Migrant Protection Protocols Immigration Hearing Facilities in Laredo, Texas, are adjacent to the Gateway to the Americas International Bridge. Hearings for immigrants seeking asylum are set to begin Monday, September 16, 2019. (Ricardo Santos/The Laredo Morning Times via AP)
Stuff animals, story books and small chairs fill the Juvenile waiting area at the Migrant Protection Protocols Immigration Hearing Facilities in Laredo, Tuesday, September 10, 2019. The facility is schedule to open for hearings for immigrants seeking asylum on Monday, September 16, 2019. (Ricardo Santos/The Laredo Morning Times via AP)

HOUSTON — Outside observers are not being allowed inside tent courts at the southern border where the Trump administration is processing migrants forced to wait in Mexico.

The first hearings under the so-called "Remain in Mexico" program began Wednesday in Laredo, Texas. A small number of migrants will have hearings before the tents in Laredo and Brownsville officially open next week.

U.S. government officials on Wednesday cited security concerns in saying observers including the news media wouldn't be allowed to watch hearings in the tents without prior permission. Under U.S. Department of Justice rules, immigration court hearings are generally open to the public.

Under the "Remain" program, more than 40,000 migrants have been told to wait for immigration court dates in Mexico. Many are in border cities known for kidnapping and extortion.

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