Tuesday, February 25, 2020

President Trump’s ‘Remain in Mexico’ program dwindles as more immigrants are flown to Guatemala or are quickly deported

Go Nakamura/Reuters
The flow of migrants being returned across the border into Mexico included more than 100 people a day here last fall. That stream of Central Americans, carrying papers stamped with a future date in U.S. immigration court, has now slowed to a trickle, with fewer than a dozen crossing back into Matamoros daily.
Immigration attorneys and migrant advocates say the Trump administration is phasing out its year-old Migrant Protection Protocols policy, also known as "Remain in Mexico," instead prioritizing newer, more restrictive programs that make qualifying for asylum in the United States extremely difficult.
Instead of allowing Central American migrants access to U.S. courts and having them wait in Mexican border towns, thegovernment instead is quickly sending them to Guatemala to pursue asylum claims there. Instead of allowing Mexicans to stay in the United States to follow a lengthy court process, the Trump administration is fast-tracking deportation proceedings and pushing people out of the country within days.
“MPP is dying,” said Charlene D’Cruz, a lawyer who represents Central American asylum seekers and has advocated for dozens of vulnerable migrants to be removed from the program and allowed into the United States. “And something worse is taking its place. Everything is changing.”
Eric Gay/AP
Though data is scant, the result is nearly exactly what the Trump administration has been seeking: a reduction in the flow of migrants to the U.S. border. The tent camps in Mexican cities are dwindling and the flow of Central American migrants has dropped precipitously, in part because many asylum seekers say they do not want to end up in Guatemala and often now see the dangerous journey north as a fruitless risk.
Acting U.S. Customs and Border Protection commissioner Mark Morgan said last week that the new initiatives are necessary to stop migrants from exploiting “loopholes in our legal framework” that previously allowed asylum seekers to fight their cases from inside the United States. Officials now say that practice — known as “catch and release” — has ended and that the majority of migrants they encounter are now placed in programs designed for rapid removal. The bulk of asylum claims, the administration has argued, are meritless.
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