Trump administration deports first asylum-seeker under ‘Remain in Mexico’ policy

A Central American asylum-seeker was sent back across the border to Mexico on Tuesday, the first to be returned to Mexico as part of a new “Remain in Mexico” policy.

It’s the latest attempt by the Trump administration to address the influx of Central American asylum-seekers currently overwhelming the U.S. immigration courts.

First asylum seeker sent back

The policy calls for more non-Mexican migrants who are waiting for asylum applications to be processed to wait on the Mexican side of the border. The Honduran migrant, Carlos Gomez, 55, was sent to Mexico near Tijuana on Tuesday, according to Mexican officials.

The man was surrounded by reporters as he made his way into Tijuana. Gomez entered Mexico last year, but like many Central American migrants is seeking entry into the United States. Numerous “caravans” of migrants marched through Mexico to the United States last year, and although some remained in Mexico, many continued on to the U.S.

Many have questioned why more migrants don’t seek asylum in Mexico, particularly as the United States immigration courts are buried under a backlog of 800,000 cases that can take years to process. Trump has often complained about backlogged immigration courts and so-called “catch and release” laws that allow migrants in detention to eventually be released into the American interior while waiting on the court — often never to return.

It was initially reported that the federal government would begin returning migrants on Friday but the process started on Tuesday with the sole asylum seeker. The Mexican government said that the U.S. will start sending as many as 20 asylum seekers a day back to Mexico through the border crossing between San Diego and Tijuana, and eventually other ports of entry.

Asylum reform

2018 saw an influx in family migration to the United States and some of the most controversial stories on immigration have centered on the plight of poor migrant families fleeing violence and poverty in Central America. The Trump administration has argued that many asylum cases are invalid and that reform is needed to restore order to a broken system.

The tidal wave of migrants seeking asylum has overwhelmed the resources of the federal government to detain and process them. Immigration and Customs Enforcement (ICE) dropped off hundreds of migrants on the streets of El Paso, Texas last year.

The new policy is aimed at getting control of the large number of families seeking asylum. The Department of Homeland Security said the policy will include families, however, Mexico gave mixed signals on whether they will actually accept families.

Mexico has said that they won’t accept asylum seekers who will be in danger in Mexico, are minors, or who have health problems. Customs and Border Protection said that unaccompanied minors, criminals, and Mexican asylum seekers would not be included in the policy.

Trump has described the new wave of asylum-seekers as a “humanitarian crisis” that requires asylum policy reform, and the new policy seems to be aimed at making Mexico bear a bigger brunt of the impact of family migration.

Mexico itself has been feeling the pressure of Central American migration too. The large caravan of Central American migrants that ended up in Tijuana in November sparked tensions in Tijuana as the border city struggled to accommodate the sudden influx of migrants.

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