The Trump administration is preparing to unveil a plan that would force asylum seekers from Central America to wait in Mexico while their applications are being processed, according to a report late Wednesday in The Washington Post.
The proposal, dubbed “Remain in Mexico,” would be a dramatic change in government policy, which currently allows those seeking political asylum to remain in the United States while their applications are processed. The Post, citing planning documents and three sources within the Department of Homeland Security, said that under President Donald Trump’s new plan anyone who couldn’t prove a “reasonable fear” of persecution in Mexico would be required to wait there.
It’s unclear if the policy would survive a court challenge, and a federal judge this week ordered the government to process all asylum applications after the Trump administration attempted to bar anyone in the U.S. illegally from doing so.
DHS spokeswoman Katie Waldman told the Post in a statement that there were no urgent plans to implement the policy, saying “every single legal option is on the table to secure our nation and to deal with the flood of illegal immigrants at our borders.”
“DHS is not implementing such a new enforcement program this week,” Waldman said. “Reporting on policies that do not exist creates uncertainty and confusion along our borders and has a negative real world impact.”
The Post, however, noted that the policy could go into effect as soon as Friday, midway through the Thanksgiving holiday weekend, while the president is vacationing at his Mar-a-Lago resort in Florida.
BuzzFeed News reported last week that the White House was considering ways to force people to wait outside the country. Officials from Immigration and Customs Enforcement, Customs and Border Protection, and Citizenship and Immigration Services reportedly met to discuss what kind of regulation could be implemented.
The news comes after a whirlwind several weeks in which the president lambasted a caravan of migrants traveling from Central America on foot, up through the subcontinent and into Mexico, with plans of applying for asylum at the United States’ southern border. The caravan grew to include several thousand people, many fleeing violence, but Trump painted those traveling in the group as gang members and criminals. He also deployed thousands of military troops to the border, many of whom are still there.
The president’s critics accused him of fearmongering in an attempt to drum up votes ahead of this month’s midterm elections, and he has barely mentioned the caravan since the Nov. 6 election.
Many members of the caravan are now close to the border, in Tijuana, effectively in limbo as they wait for interviews to begin their asylum applications or for word on the government’s new policies.
The Post notes that Trump has remained furious with current federal policy that allows asylum seekers to remain in the U.S. while their applications are pending, dubbing it “catch and release.”