MEXICO CITY – Mexico’s government said on Friday it would not allow the United States to send undocumented migrants of other nationalities back to Mexico to await the outcome of their asylum proceedings in the US.
Many of the undocumented migrants trying to make their way to the US are Central Americans fleeing poverty and violence in their homelands. After making a trek fraught with danger through Mexico, they often request asylum once they reach US soil.
“We can’t receive them. We were very clear in that regard” in a meeting Thursday in the Mexican capital with US Secretary of State Rex Tillerson and US Homeland Security Secretary John Kelly, Mexican Government Secretary Miguel Angel Osorio told Radio Formula.
The Mexican official said that during the meeting the US Cabinet secretaries requested that non-Mexican undocumented migrants detained after their arrival from Mexico be housed in that country while their asylum proceedings are pending in the US.
“We’re not going to receive them. They can’t leave them there in limbo, because we’ll have to reject them. There’s no possibility of them being received by Mexico,” Osorio said.
In their bid to remain in the US, many Central Americans say they are under threat from violent gangs, which recruit young people and demand extortion payments in areas under their control.
In memos issued this week by the Department of Homeland Security (DHS), US President Donald Trump’s administration said its plan was to send asylum seekers to the contiguous territory from which they entered the US instead of housing them in a detention center for undocumented migrants pending the outcome of their cases.
The idea is that these migrants could appear before a judge via videoconference from Mexico while pursuing their asylum claims.
The Trump administration also raised concerns in Mexico because its new policy directives make it clear that, although serious criminals and recent arrivals will be the first to be targeted, none of the estimated 11 million undocumented migrants would be except from possible deportation.
The new rules also would vastly expand the number of individuals who would be subject to expedited removal proceedings and thus largely unable to fight their deportation cases in court.
Under the policy unveiled this week, expedited removal would apply to people anywhere in the country who cannot prove they have been in the country for more than two years.
The previous expedited removal policy only applied to people in the US for two weeks or less who had been tracked down within 100 miles of the border.
Kelly sought to allay some of those concerns in his visit to Mexico this week, saying that the US would not start mass deportations of migrants and also would not deploy the military in operations targeting illegal migrants.
In recent years, the number of undocumented immigrants from Central America, especially El Salvador, Honduras and Guatemala, has risen sharply.
Mexico says it is now mostly a transit country for undocumented migrants trying to reach the US, as opposed to a source country.