Guillermo Arias/AFP/Getty Images
The Trump administration has begun implementing a tough new immigration policy by sending a single Central American asylum seeker back to Tijuana, Mexico to await his assigned court date later this year in San Diego. .
The first asylum seeker to be returned to Mexico was a Honduran identified as Carlos Catarlo Gomez. He appeared confused and frightened by the crowd of reporters waiting for him on the Mexican side of the San Ysidro border crossing on Tuesday, according to the San Diego Union-Tribune. He was taken away by the Mexican authorities.
Officially dubbed “Migrant Protection Protocols,” the policy was announced by Homeland Security Secretary Kirstjen Nielsen last December. Administration officials initially called it a “stay in Mexico” policy to deter waves of asylum-seeking families fleeing primarily from the Northern Triangle countries of Guatemala, El Salvador and Honduras.
Until now, asylum seekers were allowed to stay in the United States, pending their appearance in immigration court.
There is a backlog of 800,000 cases accumulating in US immigration courts. The number of migrants detained at the border is close to its lowest level in decadeseven though the number of asylum seekers has doubled since 2015.
The new policy does not apply to unaccompanied minors or asylum seekers from Mexico, according to government acts.
Once the program launches, about 20 asylum seekers will be sent back to Mexico each day, reports Jean Guerrero of NPR member station KPBS.
Nielsen was at the border crossing on Tuesday, but she made no public remarks.