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DHS memo outlines proposed changes to Remain in Mexico program

Washington(CNN) The Department of Homeland Security is implementing a number of updates to the administration's controversial policy of returning migrants to Mexico for the duration of their US court proceedings, an implicit acknowledgment that changes were needed.

The changes -- aimed at speeding up court case processing, among other things -- will include a review of information-sharing procedures between federal agencies.

Lawmakers and immigrant advocates have accused the Trump administration of eroding due process and sending migrants to wait in dangerous conditions while it has implemented the Migrant Protection Protocols, also known as the "Remain in Mexico" program. Last week, the House Judiciary Committee announced an investigation into the policy, demanding that the department turn over information on the program.

The changes, which are detailed in an internal memo that the department provided to CNN, were sent to acting Homeland Security Secretary Chad Wolf. They acknowledge a number of issues raised by immigrant advocates and lawyers since the policy's implementation nearly a year ago, including dangerous conditions in Mexico, where people are waiting for their next court dates, and a lack of information for migrants.

The memo comes in response to the department's earlier "Red Team Report" assessment, which recommended reinforcing training and standards for interviewing, accommodating multiple languages and improving safety for migrants while they wait.

Many of those recommendations have been or are being addressed, according to the three agency chiefs who sent the internal memo on January 14, updating the acting secretary on plans to enhance the program.

"That said, the spirit of the Report is to find ways for increasing the effective and efficient implementation of MPP -- that is something to which we are collectively committed," wrote acting Customs and Border Protection Commissioner Mark Morgan, acting Immigration and Customs Enforcement Director Matthew Albence and acting Citizenship and Immigration Services Director Mark Koumans in the memo.

For example, DHS is developing plans to conduct all court proceedings at or near ports of entry to "speed up case processing," the memo says. The department is working to create an "integrated mechanism" to share program information between Homeland Security and the Justice Department.

Additionally, the administration is working to establish and implement "effectiveness measures" to look at no-show rates, the timeline for case adjudication and the number of parents or legal guardians returned to Mexico who subsequently send minor children alone across the border, according to the memo.

The agency heads also said they will support Mexico's government to "address crime and insecurity in locations in Mexico where those in MPP are returned."

Despite ongoing legal challenges, a federal appeals court has allowed the Remain in Mexico policy to continue. As of early January, more than 57,000 people had been returned to Mexico to await US court proceedings, according to Customs and Border Protection. Last month, Morgan said the US was in talks with Mexico to expand the program.

"The purpose of the Red Team Report was to ensure DHS was running a new complex program effectively with due process and access to counsel," an individual with knowledge of the report told CNN in December.

In December, BuzzFeed published a copy of the report, which showed the department recognized some of the issues facing migrants in Mexico.

DHS spokesperson Heather Swift defended the program, calling it "one of the most important and effective tools" the administration has implemented on the border to deal with the ongoing humanitarian crisis.

"The Department is 100% committed to MPP and we are constantly looking for ways to strengthen and improve the program. The response to the report proves exactly that, both our dedication and our continued improvement," she told CNN.

On November 8, then-acting Homeland Security Secretary Kevin McAleenan directed agencies involved in Remain in Mexico to deliver a plan on how to "enhance the implementation" of the program in accordance with the report's recommendations.

The department expects to make the changes outlined in the January 14 memo over the next 90 days.

CNN's Priscilla Alvarez contributed to this report.