‘Remain in Mexico’ is just one US response to asylum-seekers

International

FILE – In this Dec. 3, 2019, file photo, Luis, left, a migrant fleeing gang violence in Michoacan, sits with his 13-year-old son on a bench in a public park facing a tent camp for refugees in Juarez, Mexico. Luis’ family has lived in the camp for two months while they wait to apply for asylum in the U.S., at a border crossing about a quarter of a mile away. The Supreme Court on Wednesday, March 11, 2020, said it would allow the Trump administration to continue enforcing a policy that makes asylum-seekers wait in Mexico for U.S. court hearings, despite lower court rulings that the policy probably is illegal. (AP Photo/Cedar Attanasio, File)

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SAN DIEGO (AP) — The Supreme Court has allowed the Trump administration to continue making asylum-seekers wait in Mexico for their U.S. court hearings. It may be the most far-reaching measure in a series of policies the government has put in place over the last year amid an unprecedented surge of asylum-seeking arriving at the border, many from Central America.

The Trump administration has enacted at least five policies since the beginning of last year that officials contend are designed to address asylum claims that don’t have merit and to confront a sharp increase in border arrests to a 13-year high in May. Here is a look at the policies and what they do.

RETURN TO MEXICO TO WAIT FOR HEARINGS

A Supreme Court decision on Wednesday affected the fate of a policy often called “Remain in Mexico.” It was introduced in January 2019 and gradually expanded to all major crossing corridors.

Migrants arriving at the border are turned back to Mexico and must wait there for their court hearings in the U.S. Critics say it’s a reckless and inhumane program that has subjected countless asylum seekers to kidnapping, extortion and violence in Mexico border cities where gangs wield tremendous power.

About 60,000 immigrants have been sent back to Mexico under the program. Six in 10 of them are from Honduras and Guatemala. Mexicans and unaccompanied children are exempt.

About 18% of people subject to the policy, known officially as “Migrant Protection Protocols,” are caught crossing the border illegally after their initial encounter, according to Border Patrol Chief Rodney Scott.

FLY TO CENTRAL AMERICA TO SEEK ASYLUM THERE

The administration has flown more than 800 people to Guatemala since November, denying them a chance to claim asylum in the United States. Instead, they can apply for asylum in Guatemala, which is stricken with poverty and violence.

Very few people actually apply for asylum in Guatemala, and many simply return home. Some call it “deportation with a layover.”

All people sent to Guatemala so far are from El Salvador and Honduras. They are subject to the policy because they passed through Guatemala on the way to the U.S.

The government plans to expand the “Asylum Cooperative Agreements” program and start sending people back to Honduras and El Salvador to request asylum there as well.

LIGHTNING-FAST ASYLUM HEARINGS

About 4,000 Mexicans and Central Americans have been deported after failing initial screenings for asylum that are administered with very little turnaround time. They get one day to prepare while in Customs and Border Protection custody, where lights are on around the clock. During that time, they get a maximum of 60 to 90 minutes to call attorneys and cannot leave call-back numbers.

Asylum-seekers who appeal failed screenings are connected by phone to an immigration judge who reaches a final decision within two days.

More than 2,500 people have been put in a version of the program for Central Americans called “Prompt Asylum Case Review” and nearly 1,200 have been put in a version for Mexicans called “Humanitarian Asylum Review Process, Mark Morgan, CBP’s acting commissioner, said in late February.

QUICK DEPORTATION FLIGHTS TO CENTRAL AMERICA

The U.S. government can now more quickly deport immigrants back to Guatemala, Honduras and El Salvador.

Under a new policy, U.S. Customs and Border Protection officials can electronically verify citizenship of people who have final removal orders, avoiding the exercise of obtaining paper travel documents from a consulate, which officials say can take one to two weeks. They do not leave CBP custody, which typically lack beds and showers.

About 17,000 people have been subject to the “Electronic Nationality Verification” policy, Morgan said in late February. Many are bused to a Border Patrol processing center in Tucson, Arizona, and flown home from there.

Kevin McAleenan, then-acting Homeland Security Secretary, said in September that it “gives us the ability to return migrants without any claim of fear to their countries of origin in an expedited manner.”

FLIGHTS TO GUADALAJARA FOR MEXICAN ASYLUM-SEEKERS

In January, the administration said it would begin deporting about 250 Mexicans a week on flights to Guadalajara from Tucson, Arizona, more than 1,000 miles (1,640 kilometers) apart. Authorities believe repeat attempts are less likely if they are returned deep in Mexico.

Mexicans from states that border the United States are ineligible. A similar effort to fly deportees to Mexico City ended in 2012 as the Obama administration struggled to fill planes.

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