Trump Strikes Deal With Mexico To End "Catch And Release", Make Asylum Seekers Wait In Mexico
24 November, 2018
With border crossings skyrocketing to the highest levels of the Trump presidency (they hit 60,000 last month) and federal judges once again stymieing the president's plans to crack down on border crossings, the Trump Administration has quietly negotiated an agreement with Mexico that effectively circumvents US courts to implement one of Trump's biggest immigration-policy wins so far: A plan that will keep Central American applicants for asylum in the US on the Mexican side of the border while their claims are processed.
U.S. officials describing the system on the condition of anonymity said they will be able to process at least twice as many asylum claims as they do now because they would not be limited by detention space constraints at U.S. ports of entry. The San Ysidro port of entry in the San Diego area accepts about 60 to 100 asylum claims per day.
Just over the border, nearly 5,000 Central Americans have arrived in Tijuana this month as part of caravan groups, and several thousand others are en route to the city, where a baseball field has been turned into a swelling tent camp. The city’s mayor declared a "humanitarian crisis" Friday and said the city’s taxpayers would not foot the bill for the migrants’ care.
A group of business leaders in the city said they have thousands of job openings at the city’s assembly plants, or maquiladoras, inviting Central American migrants to work in the factories. Though wages there are a small fraction of U.S. pay, Mexican officials said the work offer was one reason they believe the Remain in Mexico plan will succeed. Across the country, there are 100,000 jobs available to Central American asylum seekers, officials said.
The deal took shape last week in Houston during a meeting between Marcelo Ebrard, Mexico’s incoming foreign minister, and top U.S. officials such as Secretary of State Mike Pompeo and Homeland Security Secretary Kirstjen Nielsen, according to U.S. and Mexican officials.
Nielsen has been fighting to keep her job since the midterms, and while Trump has told aides he plans to replace her, the president praised her this week for "trying."
"For now, we have agreed to this policy of Remain in Mexico," said Olga Sánchez Cordero, Mexico’s incoming interior minister, the top domestic policy official for López Obrador, who takes office Dec. 1. In an interview with The Washington Post, she called it a "short-term solution."
"The medium- and long-term solution is that people don’t migrate," Sánchez Cordero said. "Mexico has open arms and everything, but imagine, one caravan after another after another, that would also be a problem for us."