Central Americans arriving at the US-Mexico border will have to wait in Mexico while their asylum claims are processed under a series of new immigration measures the Trump administration is preparing to implement as early as Friday, reports the Washington Post.
Under the new rules according to DHS memos obtained by the Post, if asylum seekers cannot establish a "reasonable fear" of persecution in Mexico, they will not be allowed to enter the United States while their applications are processed, and would be turned around at the border.
The plan, called “Remain in Mexico,” amounts to a major break with current screening procedures, which generally allow those who establish a fear of return to their home countries to avoid immediate deportation and remain in the United States until they can get a hearing with an immigration judge. Trump despises this system, which he calls “catch and release,” and has vowed to end it. -WaPo
Thousands of Central American migrants set out for the United States in October with the expectation that those who applied for asylum would be allowed to remain in the US until their cases are processed through immigration courts.
White House senior adviser Stephen Miller has advocated for immediate implementation of the Remain in Mexico plan, however other senior officials have reportedly expressed concern over implementing it while the United States is in "sensitive negotiations with the Mexico Government," according to two DHS officials and a White House adviser who apparently isn't a big fan of the idea.
According to the administration’s new plan, if a migrant does not specifically fear persecution in Mexico, that is where they will stay. U.S. Citizenship and Immigration Services is sending teams of asylum officers from field offices in San Francisco, Washington, and Los Angeles to the ports of entry in the San Diego area to implement the new screening procedures, according to a USCIS official.
To cross into the United States, asylum seekers would have to meet a relatively higher bar in the screening procedure to establish that their fears of being in Mexico are enough to require immediate admission, the documents say. -WaPo
Asylum seekers will be told: "If you are determined to have a reasonable fear of remaining in Mexico, you will be permitted to remain in the United States while you await your hearing before an immigration judge," and "If you are not determined to have a reasonable fear of remaining in Mexico, you will remain in Mexico."
On Wednesday, DHS spokeswoman Katie Waldman issued a statement that there are no immediate plans to implement Remain in Mexico.
"The President has made clear — every single legal option is on the table to secure our nation and to deal with the flood of illegal immigrants at our borders," the statement reads. "DHS is not implementing such a new enforcement program this week. Reporting on policies that do not exist creates uncertainty and confusion along our borders and has a negative real world impact. We will ensure — as always — that any new program or policy will comply with humanitarian obligations, uphold our national security and sovereignty, and is implemented with notice to the public and well coordinated with partners."
Current Mexican immigration laws doe not allow those seeking asylum in another country to stay in Mexico, according to the Post's sources. There are currently 6,000 or so migrants in the Tijuana area, most of whom are camped at a baseball field along the border as they wait to be able to enter the United States. DHS estimates that several thousand more are en route as part of caravan groups.
The possibility that thousands of U.S.-bound asylum seekers would have to wait in Mexico for months, even years, could produce a significant financial burden for the government there, especially if the migrants remain in camps and shelters on a long-term basis. -WaPo
Between 60 and 100 asylum seekers are allowed to approach the San Ysidro port of entry each day for processing.
Mexico, meanwhile, appears to be taking a harder approach toward the new migrant caravans crossing into the country from Central America - mostly El Salvador. Over 200 people have been detained from the latest caravan - the fourth group of migrants to make their way north.
Meanwhile, 34 caravan migrants were arrested by Tijuana police for misdemeanor charges, including drug possession and public drunkenness.
Por poseer droga, tomar bebidas embriagantes en la vía pública y alterar el orden, han Sido arrestados 34 integrantes de la caravana migrante, quienes fueron remitidas ante el Juez Municipal para posteriormente ser puestos a disposición del Instituto Nacional de Migración (INM). pic.twitter.com/nWxfYkdUt2— PoliciaTijuanaSSPM (@SSPMTijuana) November 20, 2018
The first group of migrants were offered to live and work in Mexico as long as they stayed in the southern states of Chipas and Oaxaca. Most of them declined.