The Trump administration plans in the coming weeks to expand its policy of turning back asylum seekers at the U.S.-Mexico border beyond the San Ysidro border crossing to new unidentified “targeted locations,” it said Friday. senior administrative officials.
The move is likely to increase tensions with the Mexican government, which has said it views the policy as a unilateral move by the United States that could exacerbate the humanitarian crisis on the border.
The policy, sometimes called “Remain in Mexico”, was first implemented this year at the San Ysidro border crossing near San Diego and Tijuana in Mexico to deter asylum seekers. In the past, people seeking asylum at the border are allowed to wait in the United States while their case goes through immigration courts, a process that can take months or even years.
“We are looking at all major cities along the border,” said a senior Department of Homeland Security official, who spoke on condition of anonymity.
The American Civil Liberties Union, the Southern Poverty Law Center and the Center for Gender and Refugee Studies have already filed a federal lawsuit challenging the policy.
“This misguided policy deprives vulnerable people of humanitarian protections that have existed for decades and puts their lives at risk,” said Melissa Crow, senior counsel at the Southern Poverty Law Center.
Homeland Security Secretary Kirstjen Nielsen, who announced the policy Dec. 20 during a Capitol hearing, defended the move as necessary to stem a massive influx of asylum seekers.
The administration declined to say how many people have been affected by the new policy so far. Officials say the number of undocumented migrants arriving in San Ysidro can fluctuate between around 50 and 100 people per day.
The senior DHS official said the administration was being cautious about expanding the policy “to get it right.” While no area along the border is excluded, the administration is examining where it can be successfully implemented.
“We want to focus on places where we have resources,” the official said. “We want to focus where Mexico has resources.”