Potential end of ‘catch and release’
Incoming leaders were initially said to be open to having migrants wait there
Incoming Mexican interior minister at odds with current president on asylum plans with U.S.
MEXICO CITY — Mexico’s incoming political leadership is denying a published report that it has agreed to a Trump administration proposal requiring asylum-seekers arriving at the southwest border to wait in Mexico as U.S. authorities consider their claims for safe haven.
The Washington Post reported Saturday that Washington had won the support of the government of Mexican President-elect Andres Manuel Lopez Obrador — who takes office on Dec. 1 — for a plan mandating that asylum-seekers at the border remain in Mexico as their claims move through the U.S. immigration system.
The Trump administration has long sought such an accord with Mexico as a means of resolving what it has termed a “crisis” of escalating number of Central American asylum applicants — and limited detention space in which to hold them on U.S. territory as their petitions are considered.
Critics on both sides of the border have long assailed the notion of Mexico serving as a way station or detention grounds for Central Americans and others applying for asylum in the United States.
The administration of Mexico’s current president, Enrique Pena Nieto, rejected a similar Trump proposal last year.
But The Post quoted Olga Sanchez Cordero, Mexico’s interior minister-designate, as saying Mexico’s new government had accepted the policy as a “short-term solution” to the issue of Central American migration — which has been dramatized in recent weeks as thousands of U.S.-bound Central American migrants have made their way north through Mexico in caravans.
Later Saturday, however, after the Post published its report, the incoming interior minister denied that Mexico had agreed to host U.S. asylum-seekers as their cases awaited judgment.
“There is no agreement of any sort between the future Mexican federal government and the U.S. (government),” Sanchez Cordero said in a statement.
Moreover, the interior minister-designate said Mexico’s new government had rejected any deal in which Mexico would be considered “a safe third country” for U.S. asylum applicants.
The White House has also pushed the alternative, “safe third country” approach
in talks with Mexican officials. Under the safe third country plan, Central Americans seeking asylum would generally have to file for protection in Mexico, not in the United States.
Trump took to Twitter on Saturday to seemingly support the plan. “Migrants at the Southern Border will not be allowed into the United States until their claims are individually approved in court. We only will allow those who come into our Country legally,” he tweeted.
He added, “No “Releasing” into the U.S. All will stay in Mexico. If for any
reason it becomes necessary, we will CLOSE our Southern Border.”
The “safe third country” proposal is a variant of the Trump administration’s socalled “Remain in Mexico” plan, under which asylum seekers would wait in Mexico until their cases were adjudicated in the U.S.
With a safe third country designation, the United States would consider Mexico a secure nation for receive asylum applicants. In practice, that would bar most asylum seekers who entered Mexico from filing asylum claims in the United States. The United States already has such a safecountry understanding with Canada.
But immigrant advocates have long opposed a “safe third country” designation for Mexico for a number of reasons — principal among them its widespread and rising violence, which often targets Central American migrants. Mexico can’t be considered “safe” for asylum seekers, many argue.
Critics also say that Mexico’s system for processing refugee requests is already overwhelmed and ill-prepared to handle a huge new influx.
In her statement, Mexico’s incoming interior secretary echoed vows of leftist President-elect Lopez Obrador to protect the “human rights” of caravan travelers and other Central American migrants, while providing them with food, health care and shelter. The president-elect has also vowed to help Central Americans acquire work papers if they opted to remain in Mexico.
More than 6,000 caravan members, mostly Hondurans, have arrived this month to the Mexican border cities of Tijuana and Mexicali, posing a humanitarian, logistical and political challenge for the two cities on the Mexico-California border. The migrants say they are fleeing poverty and violence in their homelands. Tijuana’s mayor declared a “humanitarian crisis” on Friday as the border city sought federal and state aid to help house the migrants.
Central American migrants wait at the U.S.-Mexico border in Tijuana. The U.S. is seeking a solution to the border crisis.