Official: Asylum-Seekers to Wait in Mexico Starting Jan. 25

January 25, 2019 Updated: January 26, 2019

SAN DIEGO—The Trump administration on Jan. 25 will start forcing some asylum-seekers to wait in Mexico while their cases wind through U.S. courts, an official said, launching what could become one of the more significant changes to the immigration system in years.

The changes will be introduced at San Diego’s San Ysidro border crossing, according to a U.S. official familiar with the plan who spoke Jan. 24 on condition of anonymity because it’s not yet final. San Ysidro is the nation’s busiest crossing and the choice of asylum seekers who arrived at Tijuana, Mexico, in November in a caravan of more than 6,000 mostly Central American migrants.

The policy, which is expected to face a legal challenge, may be expanded to other crossings. It does not apply to children traveling alone or to asylum seekers from Mexico.

A nearly finalized plan emerged during bilateral talks in Mexico City over the last few days. It calls for U.S. authorities to bus asylum seekers back and forth to the border for court hearings in downtown San Diego, including an initial appearance within 45 days.

The Trump administration will make no arrangements for them to consult with attorneys, who may visit clients in Tijuana or speak with them by phone.

U.S. officials also will begin processing only about 20 asylum claims a day at the San Diego crossing but plan to ramp up to exceed the number of claims processed now, which is up to 100 a day, the official said.

The policy could severely strain Mexican border cities. U.S. border authorities fielded 92,959 “credible fear” claims—an initial screening to have asylum considered—during a recent 12-month period, up 67 percent from a year earlier. Many are Central Americans.

The “Remain in Mexico” policy is President Donald Trump’s latest move to reshape immigration policy, though it may prove temporary. Other major changes have been blocked in court, including a ban on seeking asylum for people who cross the border illegally from Mexico and generally dismissing domestic and gang violence as grounds for asylum.

Mexican officials did not immediately respond to requests for comment on Jan. 24.

By Elliot Spagat. From The Associated Press.

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