New Border Policy Sends Asylum Seekers Back to Mexico
The masses of asylum seekers at the U.S. southern border will now have to wait in Mexico for their trial dates.
Many of the people in the migrant caravans arriving at the US border are trying to enter the country via California at the San Ysidro port of entry across from Tijuana, Mexico. Last week, the Trump administration declared that families would have to spend the long wait on the Mexican side of the border, citing a new Department of Homeland Security policy to crack down on immigration from Central America. Thousands of migrants from countries like Honduras, El Salvador and Guatemala have already tried to enter San Ysidro and are waiting in Tijuana in poor conditions.
Since January 25, people are being sent back to Tijuana with a court notice to appear in San Diego on a particular date. When the date arrives, U.S. Immigration and Customs Enforcement provides transportation for the immigrant to the immigration court. The U.S. government has also established a 24-hour hotline so that immigrants can check on their case status.
The Current Law
Here’s how asylum works according to current U.S. policy: immigrants have an initial interview. If the interviewer thinks there is a credible fear, the immigrants are usually allowed to remain in the U.S., awaiting an immigration judge to decide their case. Single adults can wait indefinitely, but a 2015 law called the Flores settlement does not allow families with children to be held more than 20 days.
Unaccompanied minors are allowed to wait in the U.S., as are ill and “vulnerable population” immigrants. The Trump administration says that the Flores settlement is the reason that so many immigrant families are flocking to the southern border.
How Will Mexico Handle the Hoards?
Mexico has not agreed to the new policy, and President Lopez Obrador has vehemently opposed the policy in the past. The U.S. decided on its own to implement the policy, and Mexico has been caring for the immigrants who are waiting to apply for asylum. However, their shelters are overcrowded and are increasingly struggling to meet basic life needs. Furthermore, citizens of Tijuana are upset, angry and scared about their city being overrun by Central Americans, particularly after migrants murdered two boys late last year.
U.S. Customs and Border Patrol are doing what they can, but only let in 40 to 100 immigrants per day. Otherwise, their resources would be overwhelmed. Several human rights organizations have stated that turning immigrants back into Tijuana will only worsen the issue, but the U.S. is overwhelmed at the border.
Beginning Friday, the asylum-seekers who come to the San Ysidro port of entry will be sent back to Tijuana with a notice to appear in court in San Diego. On their court dates, U.S. Immigration and Customs Enforcement will provide transportation from the port of entry to immigration court. Asylum-seekers will also be given a 24-hour hotline to call for the status of their asylum cases.
Both DHS and the Justice Department are working so that migrants don’t wait more than a year for their trial date, but the tremendous backlog of over 800,000 cases in U.S. immigration courts greatly complicates the wait times. Three main factors have created the backlog: (1) the sheer number of asylum seekers (2) the lack of immigration court judges thanks to Democratic party stall tactics of slow-rolling federal appointments and (3) the government shutdown which kept judges at home and the number of backlogs rising.