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The Mexican government is finally pushing back against the controversial Trump policy of forcing some asylum-seekers to wait in Mexico while their immigration cases play out in court, according to an internal Department of Homeland Security Briefing obtained by BuzzFeed News.
More than 35,000 migrants have been returned to Mexico under the Migrant Protection Protocols, colloquially referred to as the Remain in Mexico policy, since its start in January, according to the DHS document. That’s put migrants in danger and strained resources in Mexican Border Communities. Now, Mexican officials have reportedly begun limiting the days and times U.S. immigration agencies can send asylum-seekers back to Mexico and have cracked down on which migrants can be returned.
Mexican officials in El Paso, for example, have stopped accepting migrants after 1 p.m., even though some migrants have to return to Mexico after crossing into the U.S. for court hearings, according to the memo. As a result, Customs and Border Protection has had to detain more than half of the migrants who came to the city for hearings in August. The Mexican government has also occasionally refused to accept migrants who have been issued deportation orders but are fighting their cases, the memo says..
The policy has led to overcrowding at migrant shelters along the border, many of which are operated by nonprofits and religious organizations. At cities along the border, migrants have become easy prey for cartels and gangs. The people helping them have become targets, too: In Nuevo Laredo, members of an organized crime group kidnapped the director of a migrant shelter earlier this month. The violence against migrants is so pervasive that advocates refer to the MPP as the Migrant Persecution Protocols.
The Mexican government has attempted to alleviate the strain by busing migrants to cities further from the border, like Monterrey and Tapachula, the later of which is close to the country’s border with Guatemala. That has only complicated things further, since migrants have to return to the U.S. for their court hearings.
Being forced to wait in Mexico has also had legal consequences for migrants, many of whom struggle to find lawyers. A recent report by the Transactional Records Access Clearinghouse at Syracuse University found that less than 1% of migrants who have been forced to wait in Mexico as part of the MPP have lawyers.
Cover image: A security guard accompanies a group of U.S. asylum-seekers out of Mexican immigration offices after they were returned by U.S. authorities to wait in Mexico under the so-called Remain in Mexico program, in Ciudad Juarez, Mexico, Wednesday, July 17, 2019. (AP Photo/Christian Chavez)