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Trump Administration Begins 'Remain In Mexico' Policy, Sending Asylum-Seekers Back

Carlos Catarlo Gomez, an asylum-seeker from Honduras, returns to Mexico from the United States while his case is processed. He was the first person returned under a new U.S. policy being called Remain in Mexico.
Guillermo Arias
/
AFP/Getty Images
Carlos Catarlo Gomez, an asylum-seeker from Honduras, returns to Mexico from the United States while his case is processed. He was the first person returned under a new U.S. policy being called Remain in Mexico.

The Trump administration began implementing a new hard-line immigration policy by sending a single asylum-seeker from Central America back to Tijuana, Mexico, to await his assigned court date later this year in San Diego.

The first asylum-seeker to be returned to Mexico was a Honduran man identified as Carlos Catarlo Gomez. He appeared confused and scared by the throng of reporters waiting for him Tuesday on the Mexican side of the San Ysidro border crossing, according to the San Diego Union-Tribune. He was whisked away by Mexican authorities.

Officially dubbed "Migrant Protection Protocols," the policy was announced by Homeland Security Secretary Kirstjen Nielsen last December. Administration officials initially called it a "Remain in Mexico" policy to deter the waves of asylum-seeking families fleeing mainly the Northern Triangle nations of Guatemala, El Salvador and Honduras.

Until now, asylum-seekers were allowed to remain in the U.S., pending their immigration court appearances.

There is a backlog of 800,000 cases piled up in U.S. immigration courts. The number of migrants detained at the border is near its lowest level in decades, even as the number of asylum-seekers has doubled since 2015.

The new policy does not apply to unaccompanied minors or to asylum-seekers from Mexico, according to government documents.

Once the program gets underway, about 20 asylum-seekers will be returned to Mexico each day, reports Jean Guerrero of NPR member station KPBS.

Nielsen was at the border crossing Tuesday, but she made no public remarks.

Copyright 2021 NPR. To see more, visit https://www.npr.org.

Richard Gonzales is NPR's National Desk Correspondent based in San Francisco. Along with covering the daily news of region, Gonzales' reporting has included medical marijuana, gay marriage, drive-by shootings, Jerry Brown, Willie Brown, the U.S. Ninth Circuit, the California State Supreme Court and any other legal, political, or social development occurring in Northern California relevant to the rest of the country.
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