President Trump and incoming Mexican President-elect Andrés Manuel López Obrador have reportedly struck a deal to ensure that the days of asylum seekers crossing the U.S.-Mexico border without being vetted first, are over.
According to the Washington Post, officials from both Washington and Mexico City met up in Houston last week to hammer out an agreement that commits López Obrador’s government to restricting South and Central American migrants from venturing into the United States without first completing an application process that could take between two and five years. Present at the meeting were incoming Mexican foreign minister Marcelo Ebrard, U.S. Secretary of State Mike Pompeo, and Homeland Security Secretary Kirstjen Nielsen. While no documentation has been signed to show that the policy is official, it is anticipated that López Obrador will move to institute the so-called “formidable new barriers” soon after he takes office on December 1.
“For now, we have agreed to this policy of Remain in Mexico,” the Post quotes López Obrador’s interior minister-elect Olga Sánchez Cordero as confirming.
“The medium- and long-term solution is that people don’t migrate,” she said of the plan, which is being tentatively called ‘Remain In Mexico.'”
Sánchez Cordero went on to explain that in the view of the new administration, Mexico would have an equal interest in deterring caravans from repeatedly showing up. Her remarks came just one day after NBC News reported on the mayor of Tijuana, Juan Manuel Gastelum, calling for the United Nations to aid in the handling of what he dubbed a humanitarian crisis after nearly 5,000 migrants arrived in his city.
The Trump administration struck a deal with the Mexican government that would require asylum seekers to wait in Mexico as their cases are processed in the United States.— MSNBC (@MSNBC) November 24, 2018
Many legal challenges are to come for migrants while waiting in Mexico. https://t.co/Jfhu9r2BNn
Contrary to speculation that President Trump may have been ramping up threats against asylum seekers as a ploy to drive MAGA voters to the polls, he’s only continued to press the issue in the weeks that have followed the midterm elections. The President would, in fact, dedicate a great deal of his talking points during a Thanksgiving Day press conference to addressing immigration. Trump has been particularly vocal about his opposition to U.S. District Judge Jon Tigar’s decision to block an order that would deny protection for migrants who show up claiming asylum.
“Whatever the scope of the president’s authority, he may not rewrite the immigration laws to impose a condition that Congress has expressly forbidden,” USA Today quotes Judge Tigar as stating in his ruling.
Meanwhile, it appears that Trump and both Mexico’s incumbent and elected governments have been exercising diplomacy behind the scenes that could ultimately make such rulings obsolete. CNN quotes acting undersecretary for policy for the Department of Homeland Security, James McCament, as confirming that since July parties have been in talks to come to an arrangement that would put a system in place to ensure that migrants have a safe and orderly process to follow towards their end goals.
Should the “Remain In Mexico” plan take effect, it could mark a transition from the so-called “catch and release” practice that has allowed asylum seekers to settle in the U.S. as their application processes play out.