Trump Administration’s Asylum-Seeker Policy Takes Effect

Trump’s New Policy Takes Effect, and First Asylum Seeker Is Sent Back to Mexico

TIJUANA, Mexico — A new Trump administration policy forcing certain asylum seekers to wait in Mexico while their cases are processed in the United States took effect on Tuesday, when American officials ushered the first such migrant through a Southern California border gate into northern Mexico.

The migrant, a 55-year-old man from Honduras, had applied for asylum in the United States after crossing the border from Mexico. Under the new policy, he will live in Mexico temporarily, returning to the United States only for court dates pertaining to his case.

Dressed in a brown jacket and black cap, he looked dazed as he emerged late Tuesday morning on the Mexican side of the border in Tijuana and was swarmed by scores of reporters, photographers and television cameramen.

“I’m very tired,” he mumbled before being quickly spirited away in a van by Mexican migration officials.

“We’re just reacting to a unilateral decision,” said Mr. Figueroa, a top federal migration official in the Mexican state of Baja California.

Since the Trump administration’s announcement of the new asylum policy, Mexican officials have been negotiating with their counterparts in Washington to define the conditions under which they would accept the migrants.

On Monday night, Tonatiuh Guillén López, the commissioner of Mexico’s National Migration Institute, said Mexico would only accept migrants from El Salvador, Guatemala and Honduras between the ages of 18 and 60. He also said that Mexico would only receive returned asylum seekers through the border crossing that connects Tijuana with San Diego, California.

The returned asylum seekers will be granted special four-month, multiple-entry visas that would allow them to travel to the United States for their court dates and then once again return to Mexico, Mexican officials said. Some of the returnees will already have one-year humanitarian visas which allow them to work and travel freely in the country. Asylum cases in the United States can take years to resolve, yet it remained unclear whether and under what terms the Mexican visas would be extended.

The American policy change applies to some asylum seekers who try to enter the United States at official crossings on the country’s southern border, or are apprehended on American soil after trying to cross illegally. But it will not apply to Mexican asylum seekers who might risk harm if returned to Mexico, the very place where they are claiming fear of persecution as grounds for their asylum claim.

Migrants’ advocates and human rights groups have vociferously criticized the American policy shift, saying Mexico, which is suffering historic levels of violence, is not a safe place to send people who already fear for their lives. In addition, Tijuana and other border towns are already overwhelmed with migrants deported from the United States as well as migrants from Central America and elsewhere seeking to enter the country.

In meetings in recent days, American immigration officials have assured advocates that the returns would be conducted in close coordination with Mexican officials, who will preapprove all returnees. For now, the officials said, only single adult males in good health would be sent back to Mexico.

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