The Trump administration is implementing a new “Migration Protection Protocols (MPP)” to require certain asylum-seekers wishing to come to the United States to remain in Mexico while their cases are processed.  The administration plans to bus asylum-seekers to their hearings at a courthouse in San Diego, California, from Tijuana, Mexico, according to reports.

This plan began at the San Ysidro, California, border crossing and follows a December 2018 announcement by Homeland Security Secretary Kirstjen Nielsen.

The Department of Homeland Security (DHS) released information on the MPP on January 24, 2019. Among other things, the information notes that:

With certain exceptions, MPP applies to aliens arriving in the U.S. on land from Mexico (including those apprehended along the border) who are not clearly admissible and who are placed in removal proceedings under INA § 240. This includes aliens who claim a fear of return to Mexico at any point during apprehension, processing, or such proceedings, but who have been assessed not to be more likely than not to face persecution or torture in Mexico. Unaccompanied alien children and aliens in expedited removal proceedings will not be subject to MPP. Other individuals from vulnerable populations may be excluded on a case-by-case basis.

The December announcement outlines the following process:

  • “Aliens trying to enter the U.S. to claim asylum will no longer be released into our country, where they often disappear before a court can determine their claim’s merits.
  • Instead, those aliens will be processed by DHS and given a ‘Notice to Appear’ for their immigration court hearing.
  • While they wait in Mexico, the Mexican government has made its own determination to provide such individuals humanitarian visas, work authorization, and other protections. Aliens will have access to immigration attorneys and to the U.S. for their court hearings.
  • Aliens whose claims are upheld by U.S. judges will be allowed in. Those without valid claims will be deported to their home countries.”

It is unclear how many are expected to follow this process or whether Tijuana has sufficient capacity to keep asylum seekers safe while they await their proceedings in the United States. Litigation is considered likely. The American Immigration Lawyers Association called the new policy a “due process disaster for asylum seekers” and said that asylum seekers waiting in Mexico “would encounter substantial barriers to accessing U.S. attorneys.”

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