Posted on August 30, 2019

Mexico Buckles to Trump’s Demands on Immigration

Associated Press, August 29, 2019

A Trump administration program forcing asylum-seekers to wait in Mexico has evolved into a sweeping rejection of all forms of immigrants, with both countries working to keep people out of the United States despite well-documented threats to the immigrants’ safety.

Both governments have targeted unauthorized immigration at the behest of President Donald Trump, who threatened Mexico with potentially crippling tariffs this year to force action.


U.S. border agents give each returned immigrant a date for an immigration court hearing at tents set up near the border. But the Mexican government has bused hundreds of people to cities as much as 1,000 miles away, ostensibly for their safety. And there’s no promise that Mexico will bring them back.

Instead, Mexico is offering to return Central Americans to the Guatemala border, and others are choosing to leave at their own expense.


The effort to keep immigrants in Mexico is officially called the “Migrant Protection Protocols,” but it’s better known as the “Remain in Mexico” program. Announced as a plan to crack down on asylum claims, it has been in effect since January and was expanded in July to the eastern end of the U.S.-Mexico border.


The United States says at least 32,000 people have been sent back. Mexico says around 5,500 people have been sent to Nuevo Laredo and 3,000 people to Matamoros.

Immigrants in Mexican border cities said they were told they would receive help when they were sent back to Mexico, a promise that for many has not been kept.


Even before the Remain in Mexico program, border agents forced immigrants to wait in Matamoros and Nuevo Laredo for months at a time to seek asylum under a policy known as “metering.” {snip}

The two cities are dangerous, with consistent reports of immigrants being kidnapped and shaken down for bribes, by criminals and police forces.

The International Committee of the Red Cross warned of an “increasingly worrying picture” in the region, citing lack of basic health services and protection measures, especially for children traveling alone. Mexico has offered immigrants work permits and the bus rides to safer cities.

Adam Isacson, an expert with the Washington Office on Latin America, a research and advocacy group, said it was “virtually impossible” for many immigrants to return to the United States to continue their asylum cases. And if an applicant does not appear on the assigned date, an immigration judge can issue an order that could make it impossible for him or her to re-enter for 10 years.


The U.S. government is building tent courts in Laredo and Brownsville, where immigration judges will hold hearings by video. The first hearings are expected in September. The Department of Homeland Security would not commit to allowing observers to watch the hearings, saying that “heightened security measures” are necessary even though immigration court rules say that most hearings should be open.