News Alert: Trump Forces Asylum Seekers to Wait in Mexico
December 21, 2018
Recently, asylum law has been continuously present in the news. Throughout the fall, President Trump publicly reacted to a caravan of Central American migrants traveling to the U.S. southern border. Originating in Honduras, the caravan delivered safety in numbers as thousands of individuals sought a safer home. The caravan included many families, with mothers and fathers seeking asylum for the protection of their children.
The U.S. reacted swiftly and aggressively, shoring up the U.S.-Mexico border with thousands of military personnel. Likewise, President Trump compared the incoming caravan, full of the downtrodden yet hopeful, to an “invasion.” This fear-mongering continued throughout the entirety of the caravan’s existence. In fact, it has not ceased as the president makes calculated moves to deny asylum seekers rights and shelter.
When the migrants arrived in Tijuana, they likely hoped to find shelter, safety, and the promise of a new start. Instead, they discovered a static and unsympathetic wall, closed to their plight and suffering. News reports of terrible conditions in migrant housing and camps tell a tale of sorrow.
December 20 Announcement
On Thursday, Kristjen Nielsen, the secretary of homeland security, delivered a stunning announcement to the House Judiciary Committee. Arguing that current asylum laws are “outdated,” Secretary Nielsen stated that the U.S. will now force any asylum seekers at the U.S.-Mexico border to wait in Mexico while their asylum claims process.
This policy, while shocking and disheartening, is unsurprising. In late November, The Washington Post reported that the Trump administration was currently in talks with Mexico to discuss this very decision. At that time, the plan was titled “Remain in Mexico.” This blow against immigrants and asylees is one in a long line of anti-immigrant moves the Trump administration has completed in 2018.
The Mexican government stated that it had agreed to the plan for “humanitarian reasons and on a temporary basis.”
According to The New York Times, this “policy shift amounts to the boldest effort yet by the Trump Administration to discourage people from seeking refuge in the United States.”
The Trump administration argues that this new policy will prevent migrants from “disappearing” before court decisions. Also, the administration expects a decline in fraudulent or false asylum claims.
What Happens Now?
The policy, called “Migrant Protection Protocols,” takes effect immediately, according to a Department of Homeland Security (DHS) announcement. At the moment, the U.S. is preparing to prevent all asylum seekers at the U.S.-Mexico border from entering American soil. They will need to wait in Mexico while their claims process through U.S. courts. Yet, it’s unclear exactly when or how this will happen, and if border patrol agents are ready to act.
DHS lists current processes, effective immediately, on its website. They include the following:
- Any person with a credible claim for asylum will not be allowed to enter U.S. territory, but instead will be returned to Mexico.
- DHS will process claims and provide a “Notice to Appear” to waiting asylum seekers regarding their scheduled court date.
- The Mexican government has agreed to accommodate waiting asylum seekers and will provide humanitarian visas and work authorizations.
- Asylum seekers will have access to immigration attorneys.
- Candidates for asylum may enter into the U.S. only for their court appearance(s).
- If a U.S. judge approves an applicant’s claim, they will receive access to the U.S. and official immigration status.
Will “Migrant Protection Protocols” Stand?
This latest policy by the Trump administration places innocent lives in jeopardy. Asylum seekers, already vulnerable and away from home, family, and resources, may become stranded at the border with little support. Depending on Mexico’s level of involvement, a humanitarian crisis could quickly develop.
Because of the vulnerable state of migrants, especially traveling families and children, the U.S. and Mexico need to consider serious precautions to ensure safety. For example, this week two teen boys, staying in a migrant camp and preparing to travel to another, were slayed in Tijuana in an apparent robbery attempt.
Human rights and advocacy groups, such as the American Civil Liberties Union (ACLU), have already vowed to fight this latest attack on asylum seekers. Talking with NPR, the ACLU stated that such action “cannot be legal unless they can assure all the asylum seekers in Mexico…will be safe.”
Don’t Wait – Contact an Experienced Immigration Attorney
Davis & Associates has continued to monitor the escalating asylum situation at the U.S.- Mexico border. If this new policy hurts or affects you or your loved ones, don’t hesitate to contact an immigration lawyer. Only a lawyer certified by your state’s bar association can offer proper protection, counsel, and assistance. In addition, don’t trust non-lawyers (“notarios”) or any lawyer that promises specific case results.
In conclusion, we want all asylum seekers to have a fair and just consideration process. Please contact our offices for a free initial consultation with any question you may have. The lawyers at Davis & Associates are always here to help.