A new Trump administration policy would force migrants to stay in Mexico as their asylum requests are processed, breaking sharply with current policy, The Washington Post reported late Wednesday night.
According to the Post:
“Central Americans who arrive at U.S. border crossings seeking asylum in the United States will have to wait in Mexico while their claims are processed under sweeping new measures the Trump administration is preparing to implement, according to internal planning documents and three Department of Homeland Security officials familiar with the initiative.”
The Post obtained several memos from the Department of Homeland Security (DHS) which explain the new policy in more detail. The DHS memos say that asylum seekers would have to establish a “reasonable fear” of persecution in Mexico to be allowed to come to the U.S. while authorities review their asylum requests under the new policy, which has been given the name “Remain in Mexico.”
The DHS asylum policy is planned to go into effect as soon as tomorrow according to two DHS officials familiar with the new program.
Asylum seekers coming to the United States are currently allowed to remain in this country, in most cases. They stay here while they wait for their scheduled hearing before an immigration judge. This rule only applies if they have established to the satisfaction of U.S. officials that they have a legitimate fear of returning to their home countries.
Katie Waldman, DHS spokeswoman, sent out a departmental statement on Wednesday evening which said that there are no immediate plans to put the new policy into effect.
“The President has made clear — every single legal option is on the table to secure our nation and to deal with the flood of illegal immigrants at our borders,” Waldman wrote, and then added:
“DHS is not implementing such a new enforcement program this week. Reporting on policies that do not exist create uncertainty and confusion along our borders and has a negative real world impact. We will ensure — as always — that any new program or policy will comply with humanitarian obligations, uphold our national security and sovereignty, and is implemented with notice to the public and well coordinated with partners.”
Trump has made criticism of the current immigration and asylum programs the centerpiece of his administration, as it was of his presidential campaign. The current program is called “catch and release” because it allows asylum seekers to come into the U.S. and then they are released from custody if all the requirements are met. Trump has pledged to end the program, and he took steps to do that last spring when he and Attorney General Sessions put into place the much-criticized “zero tolerance” program. One feature of that program was the removal of minor children from their parents while the parents are incarcerated in “tent cities” waiting for their asylum cases to be heard.
As Trump’s new asylum policy is being reported and discussed the caravan of several thousand Central American migrants continues their trek to the U.S. border with Mexico. Most of these families are fleeing violence in their home countries and are legitimately seeking asylum in the U.S.
The Post also reported that Mexican law does not allow those seeking asylum in the United States to remain in Mexico.
“Whatever the scope of the President’s authority, he may not rewrite the immigration laws to impose a condition that Congress has expressly forbidden,” U.S. District Judge Jon Tigar wrote.
“Asylum seekers will be put at increased risk of violence and other harms at the border, and many will be deprived of meritorious asylum claims,” he added. “The government offers nothing in support of the new rule that outweighs the need to avoid these harms.”
To Donald Trump, inciting his political base of unhinged, anti-immigrant followers is much more important than complying with the laws of the United States. Certainly this is a breach of his duty to follow the promises he made in swearing by the Presidential Oath. He thinks he is earning political points but what he is actually doing is making the case for his impeachment even stronger.
I am a lifelong Democrat with a passion for social justice and progressive issues. I have degrees in writing, economics and law from the University of Iowa.