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Trump admin directed border agents to target Spanish speakers, Latin Americans: AP

Trump admin directed border agents to target Spanish speakers, Latin Americans: AP

The Trump administration has instructed border agents running an asylum program to target Spanish speakers and Latin American migrants, according to memos obtained by The Associated Press.

The program was launched in late January to handle the cases of immigrants seeking asylum in the U.S. and initially only was applicable to those turning themselves in at border crossings.

According to The Associated Press, a memo from a top Border Patrol official says the program expanded last week to include those illegally crossing the border.

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The memo also reportedly laid out instructions on who to allow through the traditional asylum process and who to send back to Mexico. Those allowed to go through traditional processes include LGBT migrants, pregnant women, Mexican asylum seekers, children traveling alone, and those in medical distress, according to the AP.

Another directive in the memo reportedly orders border officials to check if those seeking asylum are convicted of any felonies and to notify Mexico at least 12 hours prior to their return. 

Critics have pointed out that the program's guidelines almost solely target Central Americans. 

A second memo sent to top Border Patrol officials on Tuesday reportedly revealed that the agency is being pressured to employ the program as much as possible. Another memo obtained by the AP showed that the program is being expanded to include people who cross the border illegally between crossing points. 

The news of the reported memos comes as the southwest border saw a significant jump last month in apprehensions and denials of people attempting to enter the United States.

U.S. Customs and Border Protection (CBP) data shows that 66,450 people were apprehended after crossing the border between ports of entry in February, compared to 47,986 the previous month.

The sharp increase in apprehensions was led by a continuing upward trend in crossings by family units, according to figures released by the administration.

It's unclear to what extent the higher numbers are due to a sustained increase in migrants fleeing Central America, or if the data are skewed by the behavioral changes of migrants, such as traveling in caravans and generally surrendering to authorities rather than sneaking in.