In the coming weeks, the Trump administration plans to expand a policy that forces some asylum seekers to wait for their immigration court hearings in Mexico to other locations along the US-Mexico border, reports said. Department of Homeland Security officials said Friday.
Officials didn’t say where exactly they plan to implement the program, though they didn’t rule out El Paso, Texas.
“It’s all on the table,” a DHS official said. “We want to make sure we get it right. We want a location that works on both sides of the border.
The so-called Migrant Protection Protocols, informally known as “Remaining in Mexico,” apply primarily to Central American migrants. The United States has begun implementing the new asylum policy in San Ysidro and plans to expand it to other border areas.
As of Feb. 14, 93 people had been returned to Mexico to await their hearing in immigration court, according to DHS. Among them, 13 were families. Officials said the program would not apply to unaccompanied children.
Over time, DHS intends to extend the program to migrants arriving at and between ports of entry. Those who attempt to cross the border illegally will be assigned a port of entry to return to for immigration court proceedings.
An expansion of the program would cast a wider net over the number of migrants who will be subject to the protocols, who already face legal challenges.
Earlier this month, a coalition of immigrant advocacy groups asked a federal judge for a restraining order that would stop the Trump administration from forcing asylum seekers to stay in Mexico while their cases are processed. by immigration courts. The plaintiffs include 11 migrants.
Lawyers argued that the administration’s new policy causes irreparable harm and endangers the lives of vulnerable asylum seekers.
The administration, for its part, said the policy stem the flow of migrants and “reduce threats to life, national security and public safety, while ensuring vulnerable populations receive the protections they need.”
Lawyers had also expressed concern about how the migrants would be represented in court and whether their cases would be caught up in the huge backlog in immigration court.
DHS officials said they are working with the Justice Department’s Executive Office for Immigration Review regarding immigration court hearings. Those conversations are expected to move forward once hearings begin, but officials are looking to speed them up.