First asylum seeker returned to Mexico under new—and deeply flawed—Trump policy

US Secretary of Homeland Security Kirstjen Nielsen testifies before the House Judiciary Committee on "Homeland Security Oversight" in Washington, DC, December 20, 2018. - The Trump administration announced Thursday that it will send migrants who cross the southern border back to Mexico while their cases are being heard so they cannot "disappear" on US soil. "Aliens trying to game the system to get into our country illegally will no longer be able to disappear into the United States, where many skip their court dates," announced Homeland Security Secretary Kirstjen Nielsen. (Photo by Jim WATSON / AFP) (Photo credit should read JIM WATSON/AFP/Getty Images)

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A Honduran man was the first asylum seeker to be forced to return to Mexico under the Trump administration’s newly-announced “Migration Protection Protocols” policy, which requires some vulnerable Central American asylum seekers to wait in Mexico while their claims play out. In Tijuana, the man, according to NBC News, “asked for directions to a shelter, the source said.”

The Trump administration claimed the policy “will help restore a safe and orderly immigration process,” but it’s the Trump administration that has been making asylum claims at the southern border more difficult,by severely limiting how many people can present themselves at the border every day, pushing others to more dangerous—and deadly—areas of the border. 

What the policy promises to be, advocates say, is a logistical nightmare. Supposedly, Vox reports, “when the court date arrives, the migrant will return to the port of entry and be escorted to an immigration courthouse in San Diego for the hearing, then returned to Mexico afterward for another wait before another hearing.”

But what guarantee is there that the asylum seeker will be safe, when two teen asylum seekers were murdered in Tijuana last month? Once in Mexico, what’s the guarantee they’ll really be able to return to the U.S.? Tijuana officials have said many shelter are already packed, so where will asylum seekers stay in the meantime while they wait? Perhaps Department of Homeland Security Secretary Kirstjen Nielsen should be asked about this—if she ever bothers to show up to her Congressional hearing.

Advocates are already promising to challenge the horrific policy in court. “Pushing asylum-seekers back into Mexico is absolutely illegal under U.S. immigration law,” Eleanor Acer of Human Rights First told The Daily Beast. “This scheme will increase, rather than decrease, the humanitarian debacle at the border.”

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