Mexico’s incoming administration has agreed to support a new policy from the Trump White House that would require migrants seeking asylum to remain in Mexico as their requests are processed, The Washington Post reported Saturday.
Mexican officials and senior members of president-elect Andrés Manuel López Obrador’s transition team told The Post that the incoming administration accepted the plan, called “Remain in Mexico,” in a sharp change to long-standing asylum rules that allowed migrants to file asylum claims after entering the US either legally or illegally.
“For now, we have agreed to this policy of Remain in Mexico,” Olga Sánchez Cordero, Mexico’s incoming interior minister and the top domestic policy official for the president-elect, told The Post, calling it a “short-term solution.”
“The medium- and long-term solution is that people don’t migrate,” Sánchez Cordero added. “Mexico has open arms and everything, but imagine, one caravan after another after another, that would also be a problem for us.”
Neither the White House or the Department of Homeland Security immediately responded to requests for comment from The Hill.
While US officials told The Post they are wary the deal could fall apart, they view it as a breakthrough in negotiations with Mexico that they believe could deter further migration to the southern border.
“Since the Mexican Presidential election in July, the USG has been working jointly with the current Mexican Government and the incoming administration of López Obrador to identify and address shared issues of concern. These include our joint desire to promote beneficial legitimate trade and travel, interest in ensuring that those traveling to our borders do so safely and orderly, concern for the safety and security of vulnerable migrant populations, and respect for each nation’s sovereignty,” James McCament, acting under secretary for policy at the Department of Homeland Security, said in a statement to The Hill.
“We appreciate the leadership and partnership the Mexican government has shown on these and other challenging issues.”
Human rights advocates have voiced their disapproval of President Trump's hardline immigration policies, including the Remain in Mexico plan. They say leaving migrants in Mexican border towns, which have seen intense violence as drug cartels fight each other for smuggling routes into the US, are likely to endanger people.
“We have not seen a specific proposal, but any policy that would leave individuals stranded in Mexico would inevitably put people in danger,” Lee Gelernt, an ACLU attorney whose team has successfully sued the Trump administration over its immigration initiatives, told The Post.
“The Administration ought to concentrate on providing a fair and lawful asylum process in the US rather than inventing more and more ways to try to short-circuit it,” he added.
News of the policy comes days after a federal judge prevented the Trump administration from blocking asylum claims from migrants who do not enter the US legally.
“Whatever the scope of the President’s authority, he may not rewrite the immigration laws to impose a condition that Congress has expressly forbidden,” US District Judge Jon Tigar wrote in California.
“Asylum seekers will be put at increased risk of violence and other harms at the border, and many will be deprived of meritorious asylum claims,” he added. “The government offers nothing in support of the new rule that outweighs the need to avoid these harms.”
The president has doubled down on his hardline stance on immigration and asylum as a group of thousands of Central American migrants make their way to the southern border, many seeking to claim asylum.
He has argued that the caravan puts the US at risk because some documented gang members are in the group, going as far as sending thousands of troops to defend the border, something many Democrats and some Republican lawmakers have called unnecessary.
“Our military is being mobilized at the Southern Border. Many more troops coming. We will NOT let these Caravans, which are also made up of some very bad thugs and gang members, into the US Our Border is sacred, must come in legally. TURN AROUND!” Trump tweeted last month.
The asylum deal reportedly took shape last week following a meeting between Mexico's incoming foreign minister and US officials including Homeland Security Secretary Kirstjen Nielsen and Secretary of State Mike Pompeo.
Nielsen has long faced criticism from Trump for supposedly being too soft on immigration and has been fighting to keep her job since earlier this month amid reports that Trump has instructed his aides that he plans to replace her.