The Associated Press HOUSTON (AP) — The U.S. government on Friday expanded its requirement that asylum seekers wait outside the country to a part of the Texas Rio Grande Valley across from one of Mexico’s most dangerous cities.
The Department of Homeland Security said that it would implement its Migrant Protection Protocols in Brownsville, Texas, across the border from Matamoros, Mexico. DHS says it anticipates the first asylum seekers will be sent back to Mexico starting Friday.
Under the so-called “Remain in Mexico” policy, asylum seekers are briefly processed and given a date to return for an immigration court hearing before being sent back across the southern border. Since January, the policy has been implemented at several border cities including San Diego and El Paso, Texas. At least 18,000 migrants have been sent back to Mexico under the policy, according to Mexico’s National Migration Institute.
The U.S. is trying to curtail the large flow of Central American migrants passing through Mexico to seek asylum under American law. The busiest corridor for unauthorized border crossings is the Rio Grande Valley, at Texas’ southernmost point. Other cities in the region were not immediately included in the expansion.
The policy announcement came as groups of lawmakers visited the region Friday to examine detention facilities operated by the U.S. Border Patrol, including the processing center in McAllen, Texas, where hundreds of adults and children are detained in fenced-in pens.
Standing outside the processing center, Sen. Jeff Merkley of Oregon criticized conditions inside the facilities and other Trump administration programs cracking down on asylum seekers. “We want them treated with dignity and respect as we would want our family members to be treated,” Merkley said.
U.S. Rep. Nanette Barragan, a California Democrat, tweeted that while visiting the processing center, she encountered a 13-year-old girl who was a U.S. citizen and had her passport with her. The girl was held with her mother despite the facility being designed for immigrants in the U.S. without legal permission, not citizens, Barragan said.Speech