A new Trump administration policy would force migrants seeking asylum in the U.S. to wait in Mexico as their requests are processed, breaking sharply with current policy, The Washington Post reported Wednesday.
According to Department of Homeland Security (DHS) memos obtained by the Post, asylum seekers would have to establish a “reasonable fear” of persecution in Mexico to be allowed to come to the U.S. while authorities review their asylum requests under the new policy, dubbed “Remain in Mexico.”
The policy could take effect as soon as Friday, two DHS officials familiar with the plans told the Post.
Under current screening policy, asylum seekers are generally allowed to remain in the U.S. while they await a hearing with an immigration judge if they have established a fear of returning to their home countries.
The White House and DHS did not immediately respond to requests for comment from The Hill.
DHS spokeswoman Katie Waldman issued a statement late Wednesday saying there were no immediate plans to implement the new policy.
"The President has made clear — every single legal option is on the table to secure our nation and to deal with the flood of illegal immigrants at our borders,” she said, according to the Post.
“DHS is not implementing such a new enforcement program this week. Reporting on policies that do not exist create uncertainty and confusion along our borders and has a negative real world impact. We will ensure — as always — that any new program or policy will comply with humanitarian obligations, uphold our national security and sovereignty, and is implemented with notice to the public and well coordinated with partners.”
Trump has long criticized the current system, which he calls “catch and release,” promising to end it.
The news comes as a group of thousands of Central American migrants make their way to the southern border, with many fleeing violence in their home countries and attempting to seek asylum in the U.S.
A Mexican official told the Post that Mexican law does not allow those seeking asylum in other countries to stay in Mexico.
News of the policy comes days after a federal judge prevented the Trump administration from blocking asylum claims from migrants who do not enter the U.S. legally.
“Whatever the scope of the President’s authority, he may not rewrite the immigration laws to impose a condition that Congress has expressly forbidden,” U.S. District Judge Jon Tigar wrote.
“Asylum seekers will be put at increased risk of violence and other harms at the border, and many will be deprived of meritorious asylum claims,” he added. “The government offers nothing in support of the new rule that outweighs the need to avoid these harms.”
Trump slammed the judge on Tuesday while defending his administration's policy.
Late Tuesday afternoon, White House press secretary Sarah Huckabee Sanders insisted the Trump administration would continue its fight on the issue of asylum seekers.
In a statement, Sanders wrote that “massive numbers of aliens are arriving at our southern border, threatening to incapacitate our already overwhelmed immigration system.”