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Asylum-seekers must now wait in Mexico as US courts sort through asylum cases


Legal challenge to new policy is expected

Photo by Joe Raedle/Getty Images

The Trump administration on Friday began turning back migrants who are attempting to enter the San Ysidro port of entry in California from Tijuana, Mexico. Non-Mexican asylum-seekers will now be required to wait in Mexico as their cases go through the U.S. courts, according to The Associated Press.

How significant is this?

The move is seen as one of the most significant changes to the immigration system in years.

Officials will first introduce the practice at San Diego's San Ysidro border crossing and then expand it to other areas along the Mexico border, according to the report. The location was chosen because it's considered the nation's busiest border crossing.

Children who are traveling alone and asylum-seekers from Mexico will not be impacted by the new policy, the report states.

The Department of Homeland Security announced that the policy would reduce the number of migrants taking advantage of U.S. law and discourage false asylum claims. Also, asylum-seekers will no longer be able to "disappear into the U.S. before a court issues a final order," according to the report.

Under the policy, U.S. officials will "bus asylum-seekers back and forth to the border for court hearings in downtown San Diego, including an initial appearance within 45 days," The Associated Press reported. The Trump administration will make no arrangements for the migrants to meet with attorneys in the U.S. The lawyers will be able to visit with their clients in Tijuana or speak with them on the phone. Details of the policy were finalized during bilateral talks in Mexico City over the past few days.

To start, U.S. officials will process about 20 asylum claims per day at the San Diego crossing. They plan to eventually exceed the number of claims currently processed, which is about 100 per day.

Mexico's border cities could sustain severe strain under the policy, according to the report. During a recent 12-month period, the U.S. has had 92,959 "credible fear" claims, an increase of 67 percent over the previous year. Credible fear means that a migrant has a legitimate fear of returning to his or her country and cannot be subject to deportation from the U.S. until the asylum case is processed.

Cases can take years to settle due to a backlog of more than 800,000 cases, according to the report.

Is a legal challenge expected?

The so-called "Remain in Mexico" policy is President Donald Trump's latest move to reshape immigration policy. But a legal challenge is expected. Courts have blocked other significant changes. That's what happened, for example, on an attempt to dismiss domestic violence and gang violence as reasons for asylum.

Trump wants Congress to fund a $5.7 billion border wall, which has fueled a budget impasse and led to a partial government shutdown. The shutdown has continued for more than one month.

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