Mexico Protests U.S. Decision to Return Asylum Seekers

TIJUANA, Mexico — The government of Mexico said Friday that it disagreed with the Trump administration’s decision to roll out a policy that forces asylum seekers to wait in Mexico while they pursue their cases in the United States — but said it would take in some of the asylum seekers anyway.

In a statement, the Mexican government said that it “does not agree with this unilateral measure implemented by the government of the United States” and outlined the conditions that it had negotiated since the Department of Homeland Security announced the plan a month ago.

Roberto Velasco, a spokesman for Mexico’s Foreign Ministry, said it was “trying to respond to U.S. policy” with respect to the nation’s own immigration policy. “We’re making a sovereign decision to allow some people into Mexico with very clear limits based on what our laws and international commitments allow,” he said.

The policy, which the Trump administration said Thursday it would begin to implement, marks an escalation in the administration’s attempt to rein in illegal immigration and a dramatic reversal of the decades-long practice of allowing applicants to request protection from within the United States or at official ports of entry, and to remain in the country while their cases wind through immigration courts.

If applied to a majority of asylum applicants, it could potentially flood Mexican border towns like Tijuana with thousands more people seeking protection in the United States.

Currently, most migrants who request asylum at the border are released within days with a notice to appear at an immigration court in the interior of the country for their proceedings, a practice that President Trump has derided as “catch and release.” It takes years for cases to advance through the courts. Only 20 percent of all asylum applicants ultimately win the right to remain permanently in the country. That figure is even lower, 10 percent, for Central Americans, who account for most of those requesting asylum at the border.

By Azam Ahmed for THE NEW YORK TIMES
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