By Bloomberg
November 24, 2018

Asylum seekers in Mexico will be required to wait until their claims move through U.S. courts before the crossing the border, according to a plan that’s won the support of Mexico’s incoming government, the Washington Post reported.

In a win for the Trump administration, the potential agreement would break long-standing rules and install new barriers for Central American migrants attempting to reach the U.S., the newspaper reported on Saturday, citing Mexican officials and senior members of president-elect Andrés Manuel López Obrador’s transition team that it didn’t identify.

The plan, to be known as “Remain in Mexico,” would require asylum applicants at the border to stay in Mexico while their cases are processed, potentially ending a system President Donald Trump calls “catch and release” that has until now generally allowed those seeking refuge to wait on safer U.S. soil, according to the Post.

White House spokesman Hogan Gidley didn’t directly address the plan in a statement, saying that “President Trump has developed a strong relationship with the incoming Obrador administration, and we look forward to working with them on a wide range of issues.” An official with Mexico’s Foreign Ministry declined to comment.

Historic Reticence

The deal shows that the Trump administration overcame Mexico’s historic reticence to deepen cooperation with the U.S. on an issue widely seen there as America’s problem. According to the newspaper, no formal agreement has been signed and details are still under discussion.

Should such a plan go ahead, it could deter people from attempting to migrate to the U.S. from Central America via Mexico. Trump deployed U.S. military forces to California, Arizona and Texas in recent weeks, and threatened to close busy border crossings after migrants traveling as part of a so-called caravan forced their way onto Mexican soil last month.

Democrats and human rights activists are likely to be concerned about such a plan, and in the past have expressed concern it could put migrants at risk and make it more difficult for them to apply for asylum.

Election Issue

The new measures could also trigger fresh legal challenges, according to the Post.

Immigration, including recent issues tied to asylum seekers from Central America, was a flashpoint in this month’s U.S. midterm elections and will likely continue to play a key role in the new Congress and in shaping the debate ahead of the 2020 presidential vote.

The caravans and the topic of asylum seekers has become a source of frustration for Trump, and were a major part of his messaging in a series of pre-election rallies.

Earlier this month, a federal judge in California halted the Trump administration’s latest attempt to seal the U.S. southern border by barring migrants from seeking asylum inside the country. The judge prevented the government from restricting asylum applications to those made at official ports of entry, although the Justice Department will likely appeal the order.

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