President Trump’s administration has implemented yet another troublesome and controversial measure in its efforts to reshape the immigration system. A new policy announced Thursday by the Department of Homeland Security bans asylum seekers from entering the U.S. and requires them to stay in Mexico as they await the status of their application.
Prior to the new policy, asylum seekers who passed an initial screening in the U.S. were allowed to wait on U.S. soil pending an immigration judge’s ruling. However, under the newly-announced policy that won’t be the case as federal immigration agents will process anyone seeking asylum and immediately return them to Mexico.
“They will not be able to disappear into the United States,” Homeland Security Secretary Kirstjen Nielsen told the House Judiciary Committee. “They will have to wait for approval. If they are granted asylum by a U.S. judge, they will be welcomed into America. If they are not, they will be removed to their home countries.”
The U.S. and Mexican governments are dubbing it a unilateral move by the Trump administration. The announcement comes just two days after the U.S. pledged $10.6 billion in aid for Central America and southern Mexico to make people feel “less compelled to leave.” But it’s no secret that many asylum seekers, those seeking protection from violence or persecution, are coming from Central American countries such as El Salvador, Honduras, and Guatemala.
The concern from those critical of the move is that this is an unsafe decision that will place those seeking asylum in great danger. In addition to the pushback those in the migrant caravan received, sections of northern Mexico, specifically across from Texas, have been labeled dangerous due to extreme violence and drug trafficking.
“Giving them food or work authorization does not protect them from the cartels or the war zone that they would be sent to,” said Jennifer Harbury, a South Texas attorney and human rights advocate. “If Mexico could protect them, they would be protecting their own citizens, and they can’t.”
The government of Mexican President Andres Manuel Lopez Obrador, who took office on Dec. 1, confirmed asylum seekers could remain in Mexico on humanitarian grounds. The Mexican Foreign Ministry said Thursday it will grant migrants with pending asylum applications a humanitarian visa to remain in Mexico, work permits and the ability to travel back and forth to the U.S. for court hearings.
This latest decision has flipped the asylum-seeking process and how it works in the U.S. on its head, and with President Trump’s stance on tightening the borders, this won’t be the last we hear about this ruling.