The Trump administration is allegedly planning to return Central American immigrants to Mexico amid COVID-19 fears

The Mexican government said that it has not received any formal proposal from U.S. officials

The Trump administration is allegedly planning to return Central American immigrants to Mexico amid COVID-19 fears
Central American migrants returned from the U.S. to Mexico under the Migrant Protection Protocols (MPP), enter a shopping mall in Tijuana, Mexico - Photo: Carlos Jasso/REUTERS
English 18/03/2020 11:57 Reuters Mexico City Actualizada 12:06
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According to two administration officials, the Trump administration is considering returning any immigrants caught at the Mexico-U.S. border to Mexico, arguing the measure is necessary to fight the fast-spreading COVID-19.

The measure, which is being discussed, would apply to undocumented immigrants caught crossing the border illegally and would not affect legal immigration or commercial traffic, the officials said.

However, two other officials, who work for the U.S. Department of Homeland Security (DHS) and U.S. Customs and Border Protection (CBP), disputed that removing all foreigners caught at the border to Mexico was under consideration.

On Tuesday, the Mexican government said that it has not received any formal proposal from U.S. officials, according to a brief statement from Mexico’s Foreign Ministry.

The statement explained that Mexico would analyze the reach of the alleged proposal, and committed to act in defense of its own interests, public health, and human rights.

The possible move, first reported by The New York Times, would likely face court challenges and may require the cooperation of the Mexican government.

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On Tuesday, the DHS and CBP officials said separately that U.S. border officials would increase the returns of Mexican nationals caught crossing the border illegally.

Under that practice, U.S. officials can offer Mexican nationals caught at the border the option to return to Mexico as an alternative to formal deportation proceedings in the United States.

“If we return people immediately without taking them back to our processing centers, then you’re minimizing the exposure,” the CBP official said.

All four officials requested anonymity because they were not authorized to discuss the plans.

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Immigrant rights groups criticized the idea of mass returns of foreign nationals to Mexico.

People fleeing violence from Mexico and Central American countries are actually at greater risk of contracting coronavirus in the United States than in their home countries at this point,” said Linda Rivas, executive director at advocacy group Las Americas in El Paso.

Until March 17, Mexico reported 82 COVID-19, in contrast with 6,000 registered cases in the U.S.

The U.S. sends non-Mexican asylum seekers to Mexico under a program known as the Migrant Protection Protocols (MPP). The U.S. Supreme Court allowed that program to remain in effect last week pending the outcome of a legal challenge.

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