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Updated Jan. 25 at 9:05 a.m. ET
The Trump administration is rolling out its plan on Friday forcing asylum seekers, mostly from Central America, to stay in Mexico while their legal proceedings unfold through the U.S. court system.
The policy will be rolled out at the San Ysidro border crossing in San Diego, the busiest in the country, a senior U.S. Customs and Border Protection official told NPR. The plan, stemming from talks with Mexican officials, is to bus asylum seekers from Tijuana, Mexico to a courthouse in downtown San Diego. The administration plans to eventually implement the policy at other border crossings.
Homeland Security Secretary Kirstjen Nielsen first announced plans for this ‘historic’ policy, called the ‘Migration Protection Protocols’, in a note returned at the end of December.
“Foreigners trying to outsmart the system to enter our country illegally will no longer be able to disappear into the United States, where many are skipping their court dates. Instead, they will await a decision from immigration court while they are there. in Mexico ‘and release’ will be replaced with ‘catch and return’,” Nielsen said.
“Catch and release” is a term the Trump administration uses for the traditional policy of allowing asylum seekers to remain in the United States pending a court hearing.
A “fact sheet” released by the Department of Homeland Security to explain the new policy states that asylum seekers “will receive a ‘notice to appear’ for their hearing in immigration court and will be returned to Mexico. until the date of their hearing”.
“While foreigners await their hearings in Mexico, the Mexican government has made its own decision to provide these individuals with the option of remaining in Mexico, under the applicable protection depending on the type of status granted to them.
“Aliens who must return to the United States to attend their immigration court hearings will be permitted to enter the United States and attend that hearing. Aliens whose applications are deemed meritorious by a judge of the immigration will be permitted to remain in the U.S. valid applications will be returned from the U.S. to their country of nationality or citizenship.
“DHS is working closely with the U.S. Department of Justice’s Executive Office for Immigration Review to streamline the process and complete deportation proceedings as quickly as possible.”
The new policy, dubbed “Remain in Mexico” by administration officials and critics, will not apply to children traveling alone, called unaccompanied minors, or asylum seekers arriving from Mexico.
A senior Customs and Border Protection official told NPR that he expects the new policy to face a swift legal challenge.
Immigrant and asylum advocates were quick to denounce the change in policy.
“Forcing asylum-seeking families to remain in unsafe conditions in Mexico runs counter to the values that are at the heart of our country’s identity,” said Jess Morales Rocketto, president of Families Belong Together, a coalition of 250 groups. opposed to the administration’s immigration policies. “The reality of this plan is suffering. These children and families will be left insecure, without food or shelter, in violation of their human rights.”