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Illegal immigrants seeking asylum must wait in Mexico under new Trump admin policy


"'Catch and release' will be replaced with 'catch and return'"

Central American migrants remain at a temporary shelter in eastern Tijuana, Baja California state, Mexico, on Dec. 6, 2018. The migrants are hoping to enter the United States. (Photo by Guillermo Arias / AFP)

Asylum-seeking immigrants who illegally enter the United States through the Mexican border will be forced to wait in Mexico for their cases to be decided, after the Trump administration formally ended "catch and release" in favor of a "catch and return" policy, according to The New York Times.

"Aliens trying to game the system to get into our country illegally will no longer be able to disappear into the United States, where many skip their court dates," said Homeland Security Secretary Kirstjen Nielsen in a statement.

How will this work? In the past, asylum-seekers who make it into the U.S. illegally and get detained are released in the U.S. until they are summoned for their court proceedings.

Going forward, those asylum-seekers will be sent back to Mexico to wait, which could both relieve overwhelmed U.S. border detention centers and discourage illegal immigration.

What does Mexico think of this? Mexican officials reportedly found out about this new policy Thursday morning in a letter from the U.S. Department of Homeland Security.

Mexico has agreed to abide by this policy, with a Mexican Foreign Ministry spokesman calling it "a unilateral move by the United States that we have to respond to."

Mexican shelters, such as those in Tijuana, are already struggling to accommodate the number of Central American migrants that traveled to the U.S. border as part of a caravan seeking asylum. Residents have become increasingly unhappy with an arrangement that leaves them responsible for housing hundreds or thousands of people who want to get into the U.S.

Migrants waiting in Mexico can either apply for asylum there or apply for a one-year renewable humanitarian visa that comes with a work permit, if they don't want to wait out a lengthy U.S. asylum process.

Will the policy be challenged? It's likely that human rights groups will sue to block the policy, which Amnesty International executive director Margaret Huang called a "stark violation of international law" and a "callous response to the families and individuals running for their lives."

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