In the past, political asylum applicants are often detained in the U.S. while their petitions move through the system. Because of the large caseload, lengthy backlog, and a shortage of detention space, many are given a court date and released.
President Trump has repeatedly denounced this de facto policy of “catch and release” and is doing something about it.
“Migrants” who seek to enter the United States from Mexico and ask for asylum, whether or not they present themselves to U.S. authorities at a legal port of entry, will be returned to Mexico while their claims are being processed by the U.S. government.
Molly O’Toole reports for the Los Angeles Times that on Jan. 3, 2018, the Trump administration and Mexico’s government announced that thousands of “caravan migrants” seeking asylum in the U.S. will be forced to wait in Mexico while their cases are considered – a process that can often take well over a year.
Homeland Security Secretary Kirstjen Nielsen said in a statement that “catch and release” will be replaced with “catch and return,” and hailed the policy change as a historic measure that would “bring the illegal immigration crisis under control.”
Mexico’s agreement to hold the migrants is a major change from its traditional refusal to accept the return of migrants who aren’t Mexican. Under the new policy, which the Trump administration imposed unilaterally, but which Mexico said it would cooperate with on a temporary basis, third-party nationals or non-Mexican migrants will be allowed to remain in Mexico while their asylum claims are being processed.
That being said, Mexico’s agreement is only temporary. The foreign ministry said “Mexico reaffirms its sovereign right to admit or reject the entry of foreigners into its territory, in the exercise of its migration policy,” and that the government had rejected a U.S. proposal known as “safe third country,” under which Central Americans seeking asylum would generally have to seek protection in Mexico, not in the U.S., similar to a U.S. understanding with Canada.
Predictably, the new policy is bitterly oppposed by Democrats and the Left.
Rep. Joaquin Castro (D-Texas), incoming chairman of the Congressional Hispanic Caucus, calls the new policy “the single biggest assault to date by this administration on the world’s most vulnerable populations coming to America – legally – and in search of a better life.”
Thank you, President Trump!
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