Yesterday, the Department of Homeland Security (DHS) announced a new policy which will require illegal immigrants seeking asylum in the United States to return to Mexico and wait until their claims are processed—potentially for months or years.
Homeland Security Secretary Kirstjen Nielsen cited emergency powers permitted according to the Immigration and Nationality Act in order to handle a significant amount of asylum claims filed by Central Americans. She said if a U.S. judge grants asylum to these individuals, they will be welcomed into the U.S., but if not, they will be sent back to their home countries.
For several weeks, the U.S. and Mexico were involved in negotiations to reach such a deal, referring to it as “Remain in Mexico,” in an effort to curb illegal crossings through the southern U.S. border. Officials from the new Mexican government regime, headed by President Andrés Manuel López Obrador stated they would provide affected individuals with humanitarian visas, work permits, legal services, and other forms of aid while the legal process plays out. In the past, the Mexican government has refused to accept third-country migrants from the United States.
The Trump administration began separating children from parents who were facing criminal charges for illegally crossing the border earlier this year. This policy has sparked national outrage and it was ultimately determined as unlawful. Instead of being released into the country following an interview with a U.S. asylum officer, families will be sent back to Mexico as an alternate method.
Current shelters available to migrants in Mexico are already at full capacity—with an expected increase in the near future because of asylum seekers. Although these asylum seekers are able to obtain legal representation from U.S. immigration lawyers, they may find it extremely difficult to assist their clients with their cases, mainly due to lack of phones or the Internet.
The recent arrival of the Central American caravan at the U.S.-Mexico border has reignited the national attention of immigrants seeking asylum in the United States. President Donald Trump continues to denounce the asylum seekers efforts as a threat to national security and make efforts to limit the number of people allowed to seek asylum at specific ports, resulting in an extensive backlog of asylum immigration court cases.
U.S. and international law protect the right to seek asylum. You may apply for asylum due to facing persecution in your home country.
While illegally crossing the border is a misdemeanor, a person who has already been deported at least once will face felony charges. However, seeking asylum at a port of entry is legal.