Asylum seekers must wait in Mexico per agreement starting Friday, but legal challenges are coming

A significant change in immigration policy will now force some migrants seeking asylum in the U.S. to wait in Mexico for their pending cases.

Migrants waiting on their asylum requests to make their way through U.S. courts will have to stay in Mexico until their appeals are finalized, in the Trump administration policy beginning Friday, a U.S. official told Associated Press.

San Diego’s San Ysidro border crossing, one of the busiest in the nation, will be the launching ground for the “Remain in Mexico” policy which is expected to face legal challenges. Children traveling alone and asylum seekers from Mexico are exempt from the policy and will not be affected by the change.

According to the Associated Press:

The details were finalized during bilateral talks in Mexico City over the last few days. It calls for U.S. authorities to bus asylum seekers back and forth to the border for court hearings in downtown San Diego, including an initial appearance within 45 days.

The Trump administration will make no arrangements for them to consult with attorneys, who may visit clients in Tijuana or speak with them by phone.


The San Ysidro crossing, which was the choice of many in the Central American caravan that ended up in Tijuana, Mexico in November, will reportedly process only about 20 asylum claims daily with the expectation that the amount will increase to more than the 100 a day currently, the official told the Associated Press.

The policy would “reduce the number of aliens taking advantage of U.S. law and discourage false asylum claims,” the Department of Homeland Security said, adding that asylum seekers would no longer be able to “disappear into the U.S. before a court issues a final order.”

A current court-imposed limit on detaining children means families have to be released with a notice to appear in immigration court, an existing condition that has created a backlog of more than 800,000 cases.

Mexican authorities accepted the new U.S. plan reluctantly, as President Andrés Manuel López Obrador is only just in his first few weeks in office, though resources in Tijuana are strained.

“We are not saying we will open any kind of refugee camps or something like that,” Roberto Velasco, spokesman for the Mexican Foreign Ministry, told The Washington Post.

“We simply do not have the resources for that,” he said. “What we are saying is, we will open the door for the aid to come.”

“The Mexican government does not agree with the unilateral measure implemented by the U.S. government,” Velasco said. “Nonetheless, and in line with our new migration policy, we reiterate our commitment to migrants and to human rights. Migration should be a choice, not a necessity.”

Brandon Judd, president of the National Border Patrol Council, believes the policy will succeed if it is implemented across the entire southern border and not just at legal checkpoints.

“If it’s border-wide, it will be an absolute game-changer,” Judd said, according to the Washington Post. “It will drive illegal immigration down.”

Frieda Powers


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