Camilo Montoya-Galvez, CBS News, September 28, 2019
The Trump administration said Friday it can now return most migrants who express fear of persecution to Mexico regardless of where U.S. officials encountered them along the U.S.-Mexico border. It’s the latest attempt to effectively end a system President Trump and other immigration hardliners have criticized as “catch and release.”
The Department of Homeland Security announced it has “effectively” implemented the controversial Migrant Protection Protocols (MPP) program, also known as “Remain in Mexico,” along the entire U.S.-Mexico border. Under the policy, which is being challenged in court, the administration has required nearly 50,000 asylum seekers to wait in Mexico for months while their cases are processed in the U.S.
A Homeland Security spokesperson acknowledged to CBS News that returns and court hearings of migrants placed in the “Remain in Mexico” program occur at or near five ports of entry along the international border California and Texas share with Mexico. Homeland Security oversees the Customs and Border Protection agents who have returned tens of thousands asylum seekers to Mexico.
But the spokesperson said U.S. border officials can transport migrants in their custody across different sectors to subject them to the policy and return them Mexico, as long as the Mexican government has “indicated capacity to accept” them.
Since being implemented in San Diego at the end of 2018, the “Remain in Mexico” program has been implemented to the border sectors near Calexico, California and the Texas border communities of El Paso, Laredo and Brownsville.
Immigration hardliners and some government officials have long attacked the practice of releasing apprehended migrants, mostly families with children or individuals seeking asylum, who crossed the southern border illegally but otherwise don’t have criminal records. Under this system, denounced by critics as a “loophole” that incentivizes economic migration, migrants who have extra legal protections are typically detained for a few days or weeks, and then released to local shelters with a notice to appear in immigration court.
Acting Homeland Security Secretary Kevin McAleenan on Monday pledged to effectively abolish this system starting next week. His agency has said that this would be partly accomplished by “generally” placing all families who claim fear in MPP and returning them Mexico.