The Trump administration has reached an agreement with Mexico to keep asylum seekers out of the United States while their applications are being processed, The Washington Post reported Saturday.
Though neither side has signed any formal accord, administration officials say it’s likely Mexico will welcome the accord, called Remain in Mexico, once incoming President Andrés Manuel López Obrador takes office on December 1.
The Post noted that the deal breaks with long-standing asylum rules and will stymie the progress of the large caravan of migrants from Central America currently making its way to the U.S. southern border, fleeing poverty and gang violence. Those seeking refuge will now be forced to wait in Mexican border states, where cartel violence is rampant.
“By reaching the accord, the Trump administration has also overcome Mexico’s historic reticence to deepen cooperation with the United States on an issue widely seen here as America’s problem,” The Post wrote.
President Trump has long complained of a practice some refer to as “catch-and-release.” Traditionally, after aslyum-seekers are processed at the border, they are allowed to remain in the country while their cases make their way through the immigration court system. Earlier this year, after implementing a failed “zero-tolerance” immigration policy that resulted in the detention of thousands of children and families, the president attempted crack down on those seeking refuge in the United States, deploying troops to the border to keep them out.
That move was met with resistance from Mexican officials who were upset that the Central American “caravan” had crossed the country’s border with Guatemala on their way to the U.S. southern border.
In Tijuana, anti-caravan protesters gathered to demonstrate against the migrants last week, chanting “Out Hondurans, we don’t want you here” and carrying signs that read “no to the invasion.” Days earlier, others had pelted sleeping migrants with rocks, threatening and harassing them.
Despite job offers from local businesses and some support from Tijuana residents who have offered up food, clothing and shelter to the caravan, officials there have refused to use taxpayer money to fund relief efforts for the group of migrants. Tijuana Mayor Juan Manuel Gastelum additionally declared the caravan a humanitarian crisis for the region.
“I’m not afraid of them, this is just racism,” one caravan member told reporters, in response to the backlash.
The deal between López Obrador’s transition team and the Trump administration is the latest attempt at cooperation between the two nations with regards to asylum. As The Post notes, a previous plan floated by the administration and current Mexican President Enrique Peña Nieto fell through after the latter lost his re-election bid earlier this year.
Although Mexican officials are not keen on the idea of hosting scores of American asylum seekers, they consider the Remain in Mexico deal more palatable and diplomatic than Trump’s previous threats to close the southern border entirely.
Mexican officials also hope the deal will eventually discourage migrants from entering the country.
“For now, we have agreed to this policy of Remain in Mexico,” incoming interior minister Olga Sánchez Cordero told The Post, calling it a “short term” solution.
“The medium- and long-term solution is that people don’t migrate,” she said. “Mexico has open arms and everything, but imagine, one caravan after another after another, that would also be a problem for us.”