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Rep. Escobar: Trump’s ‘Remain in Mexico’ policy for migrants expanded to El Paso

Congresswoman Veronica Escobar said Wednesday the Trump Administration has expanded a “dangerous policy” that applies to asylum seekers to ports of entry in El Paso.

“Today, the Trump administration decided to once again ignore our immigration laws and expand a dangerous policy in order to deter asylum seekers fleeing violence, persecution and poverty from seeking refuge in our country,” said Escobar, “With this shameful policy, the administration is endangering lives, abandoning its obligation to bring forward smart solutions for our broken immigration system, and imposing on another country the task of solving our immigration challenges.”

The Department of Homeland Security’s Migrant Protection Protocols policy, commonly known as “Remain in Mexico,” calls for people seeking asylum in the U.S. to be held in Mexico. The administration hopes that making asylum seekers wait in Mexico will discourage weak claims and help reduce an immigration court backlog of more than 800,000 cases. Currently, families are typically released in the U.S. with notices to appear in court and can stay until their cases are resolved, which can take years.

ABC-7 contacted Joe Romero, a spokesman with the U.S. Border Patrol, who said the El Paso sector has yet to receive any guidelines on enforcing the policy.

Wednesday, ABC-7 was present at the border barrier in El Paso as dozens of migrants entered the country to request asylum.

Critics of the Trump Administration policy say asylum seekers sent back to Mexico are forced to wait in unsafe environments and will struggle to find legal advice while in Mexico. Tijuana had more than 2,500 homicides last year, the Associated Press reports.

“Enough is enough. I will soon introduce legislation to ensure no funds are provided for this misguided policy. I urge my colleagues in Congress to stand up against President Trump’s anti-immigrant agenda,” said Escobar.

The policy shift was introduced as families from Guatemala, Honduras and El Salvador arrive at the U.S. border to seek asylum. The Associated Press reports the change followed months of high-level talks with Mexico and has been introduced slowly with an average of 40 people a week being returned to Tijuana from San Diego in the first six weeks. Mexico agreed to accept up to 120 a week, the Associated Press reports.

U.S. officials began returning people to Mexicali, Mexico, from Calexico, California, last week and say they intend to sharply expand such activity across the entire border. Mexicans and children traveling alone are exempt from the policy.

A federal judge in San Francisco is scheduled to hear arguments by advocacy groups to halt the policy. CNN reports a coalition of immigrant advocacy groups asked a federal judge for a restraining order that would block the Trump administration from forcing asylum seekers to stay in Mexico while their cases make their way through the immigration courts. The plaintiffs include 11 migrants. Advocates argued that the administration’s new policy causes irreparable harm and places vulnerable asylum seekers’ lives at risk.

The Trump Administration, for its part, has said the policy will stem the flow of migrants and “reduce threats to life, national security, and public safety, while ensuring that vulnerable populations receive the protections they need.”

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