Mexico agrees to take in America’s asylum seekers in controversial apparent concession to Trump

US Homeland Security secretary says ‘catch and release’ will be replaced with ‘catch and return'

Chris Riotta
New York
Thursday 20 December 2018 22:56
Migrants enveloped in tear gas after heading toward US

Mexico has agreed to take in migrants applying for asylum in the United States as their requests are processed by America's Department of Homeland Security.

Under the new system asylum seekers will be provided a “notice to appear” for US immigration proceedings as they await their determinations in Mexico, where the Central American country's foreign ministry will provide humanitarian visas and work authorisations, along with other protections.

US Homeland Security Secretary Kirstjen Nielsen called the move as a “historic” measure “to bring the illegal immigration crisis under control.”

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

She added: “‘Catch and release’ will be replaced with ‘catch and return.’”

If an applicant’s request is approved they will be granted entry to the US. If denied, migrants will then be deported to their home countries.

Announcing the new policy, Mexico’s foreign ministry said it had “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."

Spokesman Roberto Velasco told The New York Times that the move was “a unilateral move by the United States that we have to respond to," rather than an agreement between the two countries.

He added that the rules would apply only to new asylum applicants and not those who had already entered the US.

The move was criticised by migrants groups.

Amnesty International's executive director Margaret Huang said: "This deal is a stark violation of international law, flies in the face of US laws passed by Congress, and is a callous response to the families and individuals running for their lives."

The announcement follows repeated demands from US president Donald Trump for the country to adopt a more hard-line approach towards undocumented immigration their northern border.

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The US leader has also continued to call for $5bn worth of government funding for a border wall, a key pledge during his presidential run when he claimed he would make Mexico pay for it.

Mr Trump now claims the country is paying “indirectly” for the wall thanks to a new trade agreement signed by Mexico, the US and Canada, though that does not appear to be a component of the deal.

The decision also arrived days after it was announced the US would invest billions into southern Mexico and countries throughout Central America, providing public and private funding as part of an effort to reduce emigration in the region.

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