In a major Trump administration win, migrants seeking asylum in the U.S. will now wait in Mexico as they wait for an immigration judge to rule on their case. Under the new plan, asylum seekers will be sent back to Mexico until they are scheduled to appear in front of an immigration judge, a process that can take up to four years, according to the American Immigration Council, a legal group.
Asylum seekers have been allowed to live in the United States while wearing an ankle monitor as they waited for an immigration court date. In a statement, Kirstjen M. Nielsen, the secretary of Department of Homeland Security, said many never showed up to their court dates, creating a "catch and release" problem.
"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," wrote Nielsen. "Instead, they will wait for an immigration court decision while they are in Mexico. 'Catch and release' will be replaced with 'catch and return.'"
Advocates for stronger immigration laws say many asylum seekers fail to show up for immigration court hearings, instead "vanishing" into the country, according to Nielsen's statement. However, Department of Justice data shows that 89 percent of asylum seekers were present for their court hearings in fiscal year 2017.
Immigrations advocates were quick to criticize the new policy, claiming it would create "additional chaos at the border" rather than reduce it, wrote Jacinta Ma, Director of Policy and Advocacy at the National Immigration Forum, in an email to CBS News.
"This policy squelches due process for people seeking asylum," Ma wrote. "We do not know where asylum seekers will go or be placed in Mexico, and neither will attorneys who might represent them."
For asylum seekers, legal representation is crucial to a successful claim. Without an immigration attorney, only one in 10 asylum seekers are successful, according to TRAC. The number jumps to more than half when they have an attorney.
The implementation of the policy, which has been informally called "Remain in Mexico," will begin immediately, according to a statement from Secretary of State Mike Pompeo. However, it's not clear how the policy will work in practice.
About 93,000 migrant claimed asylum in the United States in fiscal year 2018 and under the new law, these asylum seekers would be sent to Mexico while they await an immigration court decision. Some officials in Mexico are doubtful that the country has the resources to absorb such a large group.
Tonatiuh Guillén, the Commissioner of Mexico's National Migration Institute, a federal agency, said at a press conference that the country has neither the operational or legal capacity to receive the asylum seekers that the United States plans to send into its territory. "We can't receive them," he said, according to a translation by CBS News.
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