Deal with Mexico would make asylum seekers wait outside US border: report
WASHINGTON — A new Trump administration border policy requiring that asylum seekers at the southern border remain in Mexico while their claims are processed has garnered the incoming Mexican government’s support, the Washington Post reported Saturday, citing Mexican officials and senior members of Mexican president-elect Andrés Manuel López Obrador’s transition team.
The plan, called “Remain in Mexico,” emerged after a meeting in Houston last week that included Mexico’s incoming foreign minister Marcelo Ebrard, Secretary of State Mike Pompeo, Homeland Security Secretary Kirstjen Nielsen, and other high ranking US officials, US and Mexican officials told the Post.
In a statement Thursday, Pompeo said that he, Nielsen and Ebrard had met “to discuss the migrant caravans.”
“We have affirmed our shared commitment to addressing the current challenge,” he said. “The caravans will not be permitted to enter the United States.”
US officials began receiving guidance on “Remain in Mexico” this week and were told it could be implemented soon, the Post reported, but US and Mexican senior officials stressed that elements of the plan had not yet been established and that no formal agreement has yet been signed.
If put into effect, the new policy would end the current practice of asylum seekers remaining in the United States while their applications are processed, disparaged as “catch and release” by President Donald Trump, who is a vocal opponent of the practice.
US officials told the Post that they hope to pilot the policy at San Diego’s San Ysidro border crossing before potentially expanding it to five to seven other ports of entry along the southern border.
“For now, we have agreed to this policy of Remain in Mexico,” Olga Sánchez Cordero — López Obrador’s top domestic policy official as Mexico’s interior minister-elect — told the Post, calling it a “short-term solution.”
“The medium- and long-term solution is that people don’t migrate,” Sánchez Cordero also said to the Post. “Mexico has open arms and everything, but imagine, one caravan after another after another, that would also be a problem for us.”
James McCament, Acting Homeland Security Under Secretary for Policy, said in a statement Saturday that the United States has been working with the current and impending Mexican governments “to identify and address shared issues of concern.”
“These include our joint desire to promote beneficial legitimate trade and travel, interest in ensuring that those traveling to our borders do so safely and orderly, concern for the safety and security of vulnerable migrant populations, and respect for each nation’s sovereignty,” McCament added. “We appreciate the leadership and partnership the Mexican government has shown on these and other challenging issues.”
Two senior members of López Obrador’s transition team told the Post that “Remain in Mexico” would simply formalize the de facto situation.
Under the new policy, applicants seeking asylum at ports of entry would receive a credible fear screening and remain in the United States until their initial appearance with an immigration judge, according to the Post.
If the judge did not immediately rule on the case, the applicant could have to return to Mexico — but if the judge denied the claim, the applicant would be detained in the United States for immediate deportation proceedings, the Post reported.
Two US officials speaking anonymously told The Post that the new policy would allow the government to double the number of asylum claims it could process, as it would no longer be limited by detention space.
CNN has reached out to the White House for comment.