The Trump Administration is planning to expand a program that sends Central American asylum seekers to Mexico to wait for U.S. court appearances, and the ramp-up could begin in a matter of weeks, a U.S. official told Reuters.
The expansion is likely to further strain resources on the Mexican side of border, where shelters are already under pressure from funding cuts and an influx of migrants.
The policy of sending Central Americans back to Mexico began in January and is currently implemented at the Tijuana-San Diego border, but the U.S. official who spoke on condition of anonymity said that could be expanded to the Texas border of El Paso and Ciudad Juarez, which has seen a spike in asylum seekers since February like Marco Antonio Varela.
SOUNDBITE: MARCO ANTONIO VARELA, CUBAN MIGRANT (SPANISH WITH ENGLISH TRANSLATION) SAYING: "We are waiting for our number so that we can apply for asylum legally and not to jump over via the desert, the wall or the river, but to ask for asylum legally." President Trump is trying to crack down on both legal and illegal immigration from Central America and this is the most radical effort yet being used to convince asylum seekers to not even try to reach the United States.
American rights organizations are suing to shut down the program known as Migrant Protection Protocols, or MPP, saying it not only breaks the law but also puts refugees in danger.
And according to migrant shelter operators in Tijuana, the controversial U.S. policy isn't working as a deterrent.
One non-profit shelter told Reuters it is still seeing more asylum-seeking arrivals than expected.