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Trump admin may try to limit illegal immigration into US — by paying Mexico to keep asylum-seekers

A sign welcomes people to the U.S. from Mexico on June 25 in Brownsville, Texas. The United States is reportedly considering paying Mexico to allow asylum-seekers to seek asylum in Mexico rather than the United States. (Spencer Platt/Getty Images)

The United States is reportedly considering paying Mexico in order to prevent some asylum-seekers from trying to reach the United States.

What are the details?

The deal, referred to as a "safe third country agreement," would require the Mexican government to make its country more welcoming to asylum-seekers who are now only passing through Mexico on their way to the U.S. border.

The Washington Post reported that in order to bring this about, a senior Department of Homeland Security official offered Mexico the possibility of a significant amount of financial aid, although this payment might only be offered for a limited time.

In theory, this deal would cause illegal immigration numbers to drop by removing the need for asylum-seekers to attempt the dangerous crossing into the United States. In addition, it would allow the United States to refuse legitimate asylum-seekers who could feasibly seek refuge in Mexico. The United States already has a similar agreement in place with Canada.

“We believe the flows would drop dramatically and fairly immediately” an unnamed senior official with the DHS told the Post.

While it's not clear which U.S. officials are negotiating this potential deal, Homeland Security Secretary Kirstjen Nielsen is meeting with Mexico's foreign minister in Guatemala City on Tuesday and Wednesday, and Secretary of State Mike Pompeo is scheduled to travel to Mexico City on Friday.

Can Mexico handle the asylum-seekers?

But the proposal is not without its critics. One concern is whether or not the Mexican government is equipped to handle an increased number of asylum-seekers, even with added cash inflow from the United States. Mexico’s National Human Rights Commission reported that in 2017, Mexico received 14,596 asylum applications, but did not follow through on 7,719 of those.

That same year, the U.S. received 119,114 asylum applications — more than double what it had been during the previous year (68,530) and more than nine times what it was in 2008.

“Mexico is interested [in] addressing the fact that both the United States and Mexico have experienced a significant increase in the number of asylum and refugee requests and that a large number of Central American nationals enter Mexico with the intent to reach the United States,” Mexico's ambassador to Washington, Gerónimo Gutiérrez, said in a statement to The Washington Post.  “We have engaged the U.S. government in conversations about this matter in order to identify possible areas of cooperation, but we have not [reached] any conclusion.”

Newly elected Mexican President Andrés Manuel López Obrador has said that he would consider cooperating with the Trump administration, although he did not specifically address this proposal.

López Obrador called President Donald Trump an “irresponsible bully” during his campaign, but has since seemed to ease up on that sort of rhetoric. He has invited Trump to attend his inauguration on Dec. 1.

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