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US to begin blocking asylum-seekers from entering over Mexican border
[WASHINGTON] The Trump administration said Thursday that it would start blocking a small number of asylum-seekers from entering the United States from Mexico, using the San Ysidro border crossing near San Diego as the first location to turn back immigrants applying for refugee status.
The policy to block asylum-seekers was first announced last month by Kirstjen Nielsen, the homeland security secretary, and Secretary of State Mike Pompeo. It will gradually be expanded over the next two weeks at border crossings with heavy foot traffic in Texas, New Mexico and Arizona, according to a senior US official briefed on the move, who spoke on the condition of anonymity.
The move is intended to dissuade immigrants, mostly from Central America, from making the long and dangerous journey through Mexico to the southwestern United States border. The policy is likely to intensify pressure on Mexican authorities, who are already struggling to deal with thousands of Central American immigrants who have applied for humanitarian visas in Tapachula, near the border with Guatemala.
It will apply both to some asylum-seekers who try to enter the United States at border crossings and to people who are stopped while illegally trying to enter. Asylum-seekers generally have been allowed to wait in the United States, often for years, for their cases to be processed.
"For far too long, our immigration system has been exploited by smugglers, traffickers and those with no legal right to be in the United States," said Ms Nielsen, who described the new protocol as a "methodical common-sense approach" in a statement late Thursday.
While she cited the danger posed by adults and criminals, a fact sheet explaining the justification for the new policy, described as "migrant protection protocols," cited an unmanageable influx of children and families from Central America as the main reason for the change.
Despite President Donald Trump's efforts to limit refugees, the number of migrants who asked for asylum last year out of fear of returning to their home countries jumped nearly 70 per cent from 2017, according to Department of Homeland Security data. Nearly 60 per cent of all foreigners asking for asylum were people in families.
Immigrants rights groups are expected to challenge the move in court.