Trump admin program sends asylum-seekers to await claims in Mexico, despite fears of violence: report

Trump admin program sends asylum-seekers to await claims in Mexico, despite fears of violence: report
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A Trump administration immigration policy has resulted in thousands of asylum-seekers being sent to Mexico to await their asylum claims, despite fears of gang violence or other persecution, according to a new analysis from Reuters.

Under the Trump administration's Migrant Protocols Program (MPP), more than 11,000 people have been sent to wait on the Mexican side of the border and are rarely allowed to stay in the U.S. while their claims are processed.

The Reuters analysis found that once an asylum-seeker is directed to wait in Mexico, there is an extremely small likelihood that they will win an appeal to wait in the U.S. instead of cites like Tijuana or Juarez, both with high rates of gang violence and drug cartels.

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Asylum-seekers can appeal their cases through interviews with U.S. immigration officials, where they are required to prove they are "more likely than not" to face torture or persecution if forced to wait in Mexico. But Reuters, analyzing data from the Executive Office for Immigration Review, reported that those interviews result in a transfer for about 1 percent of MPP migrants.

Reuters also found that more than 3,000 of the migrants returned to Mexico under the program were children, including more than 100 babies. It is unclear how authorities decide who to place in the MPP program, with Reuters reporting that officials appear to have "broad discretion"

Advocacy groups have sued to try to halt the MPP, arguing that the areas where the migrants are placed are experiencing "record levels of violence." Some groups also argue that asylum-seekers do not know they can can request the interviews. 

According to Reuters, the government said in a court filing that migrants may produce false claims about fears of violence, slowing down court processing. 

Then-Homeland Security Secretary Kirstjen NielsenKirstjen Michele NielsenDivided Supreme Court leans toward allowing Trump to end DACA Five things to watch at Supreme Court's DACA hearings This week: House kicks off public phase of impeachment inquiry MORE first announced the MPP program in December

“Aliens trying to game the system to get into our country illegally will no longer be able to disappear into the United States, where many skip their court dates. Instead, they will wait for an immigration court decision while they are in Mexico," she said in a statement at the time.

The MPP is set for expansion under the deal reached by the U.S. and Mexico to prevent the Trump administration from implementing tariffs on Mexican goods, which the president threatened to do if Mexico does not act to curb illegal immigration.

The Hill has reached out to the Department of Homeland Security and the Executive Office for Immigration Review for comment. 

Updated at 10:24 a.m.