Court ruling allows the U.S. to bar asylum seekers

Foreign Minister Marcelo Ebrard said Mexico didn't agree with the ruling

Mexico disagrees with court ruling that allows the U.S. to bar asylum seekers
A Central American migrant wrapped in a U.S. flag looks at the almost dry riverbed of the Tijuana River - Photo: Guillermo Arias/AFP
English 12/09/2019 14:50 Newsroom & Agencies Mexico City Reuters: Alexandra Alper in Washington, Dave Graham, Anthony Esposito, David Alire Garcia, Stefanie Eschenbacher; AP: Mark Sherman, Colleen Long Actualizada 15:04
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Today, Mexico pushed back against a U.S. Supreme Court action granting a Trump administration request to fully enforce a new rule curtailing asylum applications by immigrants at the U.S.-Mexico border, one that could create a new headache for Mexico.

On Wednesday, the court said that so long as the issue is being litigated, immigrants who want asylum can be required to first seek safe haven in a third country through which they travel on the way to the United States.

“This is the ruling by the court, it’s a U.S. issue, and obviously we don’t agree with it, we have a different policy,” Foreign Minister Marcelo Ebrard said.

The court’s move comes at a delicate time for Mexican-U.S. relations. Under U.S. President Donald Trump’s threat of imposing tariffs, Mexico has agreed to house many of the surging numbers of Central American asylum-seekers south of the border pending their U.S. hearings.

That gesture has led to a decline in U.S. apprehensions and rejections of migrants at the border, which totaled 64,000 people in August, down 22% from July and 56% from a high mark in May.

Even though arrests are still at their highest for any month of August since 2007, the decline from earlier this year won Mexico praise from Trump following a White House meeting on Tuesday.

But Mexico has resisted U.S. pressure to sign a formal “safe third country” agreement that would commit it to hearing the asylum cases of migrants from Central American and elsewhere, a move that would take even more pressure off the U.S. border.

“This can’t come about from a court ruling by another country. It’s an agreement between two or more countries,” Ebrard said, referring to a safe third country agreement. “Mexico won’t accept it under any circumstances.”

López Obrador, who spoke with Trump by telephone on Wednesday, told the news conference the call was fruitful and there was nothing that would lead to the imposition of measures that would hurt the Mexican economy.

Asked whether the two presidents could meet in person, Ebrard said the matter has been under consideration, but that there were no plans for a meeting in the short term.

Meanwhile, Trump said “I had an excellent telephone conversation with Andrés Manuel López Obrador, President of Mexico, talking about Southern Border Security, and various other things of mutual interest for the people of our respective countries,” on Twitter.

An inhumane measure

Now that the U.S. Supreme Court cleared the way for the Trump administration to deny nearly all asylum requests from Central Americans and other migrants spread fear along the border and was denounced by activists as a “death sentence” for those trying to escape poverty and violence.

The new policy would deny refuge to anyone who passes through another country on the way to the U.S. without first seeking asylum there.

Migrants who make their way to the U.S. overland from places like Honduras, Guatemala, and El Salvador would be largely ineligible, along with asylum seekers from Africa, Asia and South America who try to get in by way of the U.S.-Mexican border.

It was not immediately clear how and when the Trump administration would put the new rule into effect, especially for the 45,000 people who have been turned back and forced to wait out their asylum requests on the Mexican side of the border under yet another new, more stringent U.S. policy.

The American Civil Liberties Union lawyer who is representing immigrant advocacy groups in the case, Lee Gelernt, said: “This is just a temporary step, and we’re hopeful we’ll prevail at the end of the day. The lives of thousands of families are at stake.”

The meeting

After a White House meeting on Tuesday, Foreign Minister Marcelo Ebrard said that there has been a “significant decrease” in U.S.-bound immigration through Mexico, especially from Central America, and he expects the trend to continue.

Ebrard met U.S. Vice President Mike Pence, and had a brief exchange with President Donald Trump, to review the progress in efforts to curb a surge in Central American migrants.

During the meeting, Pence acknowledged Mexico’s efforts. He said U.S. officials would work with Mexico to expand implementation of the Migrant Protection Protocols to speed up the processing of asylum claims, the White House said in a statement.

Mexico’s strategy of putting more than 25,000 National Guard militarized police along its borders and stepping up raids on people traffickers has been a success, Ebrard told a news conference.

“What Mexico has done is working,” said Ebrard, while acknowledging that border crossings were still up from averages in September.

“But the tendency is irreversible ... It is something that we think will be permanent,” he said.

Following threats by Trump to impose tariffs on all its goods, Mexico pledged to take a series of steps to contain migrants, and the two governments agreed to review that effort after 90 days.

Ebrard also said tariffs were not discussed. “It was not the purpose of the meeting. I would say Mexico at this moment is far from the tariffs, far from that possibility,” he said.

This month, Trump and U.S. officials have praised Mexico and Central American countries for helping cut U.S. border arrests by nearly 60% from earlier in the year. But the issue remains fraught in the run-up to the 2020 U.S. presidential election.


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