Under a new policy intended to discourage Central American families from attempting to cross the border, the Trump administration announced its plans to start turning back immigrants who come to the border seeking asylum, forcing them to turn around across the southern border and wait in Mexico for their applications to be processed. According to Department of Homeland Security (DHS) officials, the new policy claim that it will be implemented on January 25, 2019.
Customs and Border Protection (CBP) officers have been instructed to return asylum seekers attempting to enter the U.S. through the San Ysidro port of entry in California from Tijuana, Mexico. Thousands of migrants, many of whom are fleeing violence in Guatemala, Honduras, and El Salvador, have had no choice but to stay in Mexico in poor conditions.
Current policy states that passing an initial “credible fear interview” should be enough to allow a migrant to stay in the U.S. while waiting for an immigration judge to decide on their case. A 2015 federal court decision known as the Flores settlement states that migrant families with children may not be detained for longer than 20 days while single adults must remain detained while in waiting.
Beginning Friday, CBP agents will be sending migrants seeking asylum at the San Ysidro port of entry back to Tijuana with notices to appear in court in San Diego. On the dates of their court hearings, U.S. Immigration and Customs Enforcement (ICE) will transport asylum seekers from the port of entry to immigration court. Those seeking asylum may also check on the status of their asylum cases through a 24-hour hotline.
The Lopez Obrador administration of Mexico has been vocal in its opposition to the policy, claiming that it was a unilateral move by the U.S. they have expressed neither approval of nor agreement to.
Record-breaking numbers of migrant families have been coming to the border to apply for asylum at the U.S.-Mexico border to escape harsh conditions in their home countries. Trump attributes this increase to that ruling and, in response, published a “zero tolerance” policy last summer directing DHS to separate asylum-seeking families – taking children away from their parents – at the border.
Exempted from this new practice are children who attempt to cross the border without an adult guardian, migrants who appear to be sick, and other “vulnerable populations.” These classes of migrants are allowed to wait in the U.S. while waiting for their hearing dates.
If you would like to learn more about this latest update to U.S. immigration policy, or have a loved one seeking asylum assistance, don’t hesitate to sit down for a consultation with the Lyttle Law Firm. Call our offices today at (512) 215-5225 to talk to immigration attorney Daniella Lyttle.