From [NY TIMES] The Trump administration announced a new migration policy Thursday that will require asylum seekers who cross the Mexican border illegally to return to Mexico while their cases are decided.
The United States has been trying for months to get Mexico’s leaders to agree to house those migrants, and on Thursday Mexico’s new government reluctantly agreed.
The American secretary of homeland security, Kirstjen M. Nielsen, said the move would prevent people from using the asylum process as a way of slipping into the United States and remaining in the country illegally.
“Today we are announcing historic measures to bring the illegal immigration crisis under control,” she said. “Aliens trying to game the system to get into our country illegally will no longer be able to disappear into the United States, where many skip their court dates.”
In a statement, she said, “‘Catch and release’ will be replaced with ‘catch and return.’”
The new policy, announced as the president and Congress were at odds over funding for a border wall, amounts to the boldest effort yet by the Trump administration to discourage [non-white] people from seeking refuge in the United States. It follows a series of other curbs that had been introduced, including the separation of migrant families, which was later reversed in an executive order after a public outcry.
The migrant issue has put considerable pressure on the United States’ relationship with Mexico as Trump administration restrictions have left thousands of asylum seekers stranded in Mexican border towns, overwhelming local shelters and resources.
The new policy would also alleviate pressure on American border agents, who for months have argued that they are overwhelmed by the record-breaking number of migrant families seeking asylum.
Mexican officials say they were told of the latest American decision on Thursday morning in letters from the Department of Homeland Security and the United States chargé d’affaires in Mexico, John S. Creamer. The letters stated that the returns would begin immediately under a section of the Immigration and Nationality Act.
The Mexican Foreign Ministry has essentially agreed to accept the decision by the United States, and will be forced to house thousands of people from other countries, particularly from Central America, as they await their asylum decisions.
A spokesman for the Foreign Ministry, Roberto Velasco, said the move did not represent an agreement between the two countries, but rather “a unilateral move by the United States that we have to respond to.”
Mr. Velasco said the rules would apply only to new asylum applicants, not to individuals who have already entered the United States with processes underway. The United States did not initially make clear if the policy applied only to new applicants.
The administration’s move is a sharp departure from decades of American asylum practice, according to legal experts and advocates. The United States has long accepted individuals from across the world fleeing harm or persecution in their home countries.
The program is almost certain to be challenged in the United States courts by human rights groups and advocates. Many have already claimed that sending persecuted individuals to Mexico, one of the most violent countries in the world, places them in harm’s way.
“This deal is a stark violation of international law, flies in the face of U.S. laws passed by Congress, and is a callous response to the families and individuals running for their lives,” said Margaret Huang, the executive director of Amnesty International.
While the individuals would be allowed to return to the United States for court hearings, they would remain in Mexico under a humanitarian visa until their process is completed.
Mexico’s decision to accept the asylum seekers is likely to be seen as a capitulation by the new government to President Trump, who proclaimed over Twitter two weeks ago that Mexico would house asylum applicants to the United States on its soil.