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US immigration

US will send asylum seekers back to Mexico while bids are processed

  • The major change in immigration policy applies to non-Mexican asylum seekers
  • Mexico has agreed to accept some of those migrants in an apparent concession to US President Donald Trump
PUBLISHED : Friday, 21 December, 2018, 1:08am
UPDATED : Friday, 21 December, 2018, 1:30am

The US Department of Homeland Security on Thursday announced a major change in immigration policy, saying it would send non-Mexican migrants back south of the border while their US asylum requests are processed.

Mexico’s government said that it would accept some of those migrants for humanitarian reasons, in what many will see as a concession to US President Donald Trump’s administration.

“Aliens trying to game the system to get into our country illegally will no longer be able to disappear into the United States, where many skip their court dates,” US Homeland Security Secretary Kirstjen Nielsen said in a statement.

“Instead, they will wait for an immigration court decision while they are in Mexico.”

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In response, Mexico’s foreign ministry underscored that it still has the right to admit or reject the entry of foreigners into its territory.

“Mexico’s government has decided to take the following actions to benefit migrants, in particular unaccompanied and accompanied minors, and to protect the rights of those who want to start an asylum process in the United States.”

The ministry said the actions taken by the Mexican and US governments do not constitute a “safe third country” scheme, where migrants would have to request US asylum while in Mexico.

Trump tweeted on November 24 that migrants at the US-Mexico border would stay in Mexico until their asylum claims were individually approved in US courts.

Mexico’s new president, Andres Manuel Lopez Obrador, took office on December 1.

The arrival of several thousand Central Americans in Mexico’s border city of Tijuana about a month ago prompted Trump to mobilise the US military to beef up border security, while restricting the number of asylum applications accepted per day.

Illegal crossings at the southern border have dropped dramatically since the late 1970s, but in recent years applications for asylum have ballooned and more Central American families and unaccompanied children are migrating to the United States.