Mexico has yet to expand asylum-seeker program agreed to with U.S.

June 9, 2019

By Lizbeth Diaz

TIJUANA, Mexico (Reuters) – Mexico has yet to expand the number of border crossings where U.S.-bound asylum seekers must be returned to Mexican territory to await processing, despite a deal announced on Friday calling for an immediate expansion, three officials told Reuters.

The deal approved by both countries removed the threat of punishing tariffs on all Mexican exports that was issued by President Donald Trump on May 30.

Trump defended the agreement on Sunday against criticism there were no major new commitments to stem a flow of mostly Central American migrants crossing into the United States, many seeking asylum protections, and pledged to provide additional details soon.

Under the agreement’s terms, the Mexican government agreed to better police its southern border with Guatemala and take in possibly tens of thousands of people seeking asylum in the United States while their cases are adjudicated.

The text of the deal released on Friday stated that the expansion of the so-called Migrant Protection Protocols (MPP), also known as “Remain in Mexico,” would begin right away.

“The United States will immediately expand the implementation of the existing Migrant Protection Protocols across its entire southern border,” according to the agreement, which also committed Mexican authorities to “authorize the entrance of all of those individuals … while they await the adjudication of their asylum claims.”

Since late January, MPP has only been operating in three Mexican border cities: Tijuana, Mexicali and Ciudad Juarez.

Officials in the Mexican border states of Sonora, south of the U.S. states of Arizona and New Mexico, and Tamaulipas, south of Texas, said on Sunday they were unaware of expansion plans.

“As of today, we haven’t been informed of anything,” said Ricardo Calderon, an official with Tamaulipas’ state migrants institute.

Sonora Governor Claudia Pavlovich issued a statement late on Saturday saying she was also awaiting more information on the plans.

Likewise, Mexico’s federal migration institute, INM, has not been notified when the expansion will be implemented at additional border crossings, according to a source at the agency who was not authorized speak publicly.

The office of Mexico’s foreign minister, who led the Mexican negotiating team in the talks with U.S. officials, did not immediately respond to a request for comment.

As of last week, Mexico had received nearly 10,500 migrants under the program and many border officials have warned that they do not currently have the resources to handle a new surge of asylum seekers.

(Reporting by Lizbeth Diaz; Writing by David Alire Garcia; Editing by Peter Cooney)

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