Trump Administration Facing Backlash for Obstructing Asylum Seekers

The Trump administration on Wednesday expanded the Migration Protection Protocols — also known as Remain in Mexico — a policy that holds Central American migrants in Mexican territory while waiting to get their asylum cases processed on US soil, starting with El Paso, Texas. The Department of Homeland Security announced that asylum seekers would be returned to the El Paso port of entry by the end of this week, BuzzFeed reported.

But some Democrat legislators pledged to end the policy. “With this shameful policy, the administration is endangering lives, abandoning its obligation to bring forward smart solutions for our broken immigration system, and imposing on another country the task of solving our immigration challenges,” Representative Veronica Escobar (D-Texas) said in a statement Wednesday. “Enough is enough. I will soon introduce legislation to ensure no funds are provided for this misguided policy. I urge my colleagues in Congress to stand up against President Trump’s anti-immigrant agenda and join me in this effort.”

The administration rolled out the policy two days before a San Francisco court judge was set to decide whether to hear a request to ban the policy from being enforced because it violates national and international human rights agreements that avoid the return of people to their places of origin if their lives are at risk. The request was brought by the American Civil Liberties Union (ACLU), the Southern Poverty Law Center, and the Center for Gender and Refugee Studies.

The “Remain in Mexico” policy poses safety concerns for migrants seeking asylum in the US. Some migrants have become targets of extortion and crime in cities like Tijuana. It is also more difficult for immigrants to expedite their process from Mexico, dimming their hopes for a better life in the US.

"Given the overwhelming barriers to legal representation affected individuals will face, as well as the difficulties in obtaining documentation critical to supporting their claims, whether or not a person is forced to remain in Mexico could mean the difference between life and death," Benjamin Johnson, the executive director of the American Immigration Lawyers Association, said in December when the policy was first announced.

The policy, however, excludes unaccompanied minors or other undocumented individuals in expedited removal proceedings, based on a fact sheet from the Department of Homeland Security. People from “vulnerable populations” may not be included in the policy on a case-by-case basis, the same document stipulates. The Mexican government, meanwhile, pledged to allow asylum seekers to remain in its territory until their court dates on US soil, the agency told Buzzfeed. As of January, Mexico has accepted over 10,000 humanitarian visa applications from Central Americans, including some of those who joined the migrant caravan last year.


About the Author

Robert Valencia is the breaking news editor for The North Star. His work as editor and reporter appeared on Newsweek, World Politics Review, Mic.com, Public Radio International and The Miami Herald, among other outlets. He’s a frequent commentator on foreign affairs and US politics on Al Jazeera English, CNN en Español, Univision, Telemundo, Voice of America, C-SPAN, Sirius XM and other media outlets across Latin America and the Caribbean.