Update on severe restrictions on asylum processing at Mexican border

The Trump administration has severely restricted asylum entries through the Mexican border. There are many initiatives. I’ve identified five of them here with their current legal status as of February 28.

The broader context: For El Salvador, Honduras and Guatemala., total asylum cases averaged around 2,500 a year for many years until the shot up starting in the mid 2010s and reached around 30,000 in 2019. (This is counting by fiscal year of the decision of an immigration court, likely in Houston or San Diego). Very few had come from Mexico but even those surged up. These four countries over the past 20 years have accounted for about 25% of total asylum decisions, compared to about 19% from China. But China’s volume has been pretty stable.

This started before Trump. U.S. Citizenship and Immigration Services reported that more individuals from the Northern Triangle region sought affirmative asylum in the United States between 2013 to 2015 than in the previous 15 years combined, and the volume has since gone up much more. (from here.)

The Wall Street Journal summarizes the administration’s action in four prongs listed below (I added a fifth):

Third-Country Ban (“Asylum Ban 2.0”): Migrants who cross through another country en route to the U.S. without applying for asylum in that nation aren’t eligible for U.S. asylum, essentially making all border crossers other than Mexican nationals ineligible.  This policy was implemented in July, 2019.  Status: in September, 2019, the Supreme Court upheld this policy.

Remain in Mexico: In 2019, the administration sent more than 61,000 migrants back across the border, where they are required to live in dangerous Mexican border cities as they await U.S. court dates. Status:  on February 28 a federal appeals court temporarily blocked this provision, which the administration began to implement in November, 2019.

Safe Third-Country Agreements: About 1,000 asylum seekers from Honduras and El Salvador who crossed the U.S. border have been flown to Guatemala, where they were told to apply for asylum. The administration signed “safe third-country” agreements with these three nations to accept asylum seekers from elsewhere. Status: The first arrangement was made in July 2019 (Guatemala) and began transporting persons in November, 2019.

Prompt Asylum Claim Review: The administration funnels other asylum seekers into this program, under which they are held and given just days to make their claim, a time frame that lawyers say makes it hard to mount a successful case. Status: this policy, called PACR, was initiated in October, 2019.

Crossing illegally bars asylum status: the administration began to implement this in 2019. Status: In August a federal court ruled this to be illegal.

Extensive details on these and other Mexican border measures are here

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