After an Obama judge in San Francisco ruled that President Trump doesn’t have the authority to prevent a wave of illegal immigrants crashing our border and demanding political asylum, a process that can take decades to bring to closure, the administration went back to the drawing board.
One of the reactions was to give the US military increased power to protect the border:
The White House late Tuesday signed a memo allowing troops stationed at the border to engage in some law enforcement roles and use lethal force, if necessary — a move that legal experts have cautioned may run afoul of the Posse Comitatus Act.
The new “Cabinet order” was signed by White House Chief of Staff John Kelly, not President Donald Trump. It allows “Department of Defense military personnel” to “perform those military protective activities that the Secretary of Defense determines are reasonably necessary” to protect border agents, including “a show or use of force (including lethal force, where necessary), crowd control, temporary detention. and cursory search.”
The second surprise dropped today.
The Trump administration has won the support of Mexico’s incoming government for a plan to remake U.S. border policy by requiring asylum seekers to wait in Mexico while their claims move through U.S. courts, according to Mexican officials and senior members of president-elect Andrés Manuel López Obrador’s transition team.
The agreement would break with long-standing asylum rules and place a formidable barrier in the path of Central American migrants attempting to reach the United States and escape poverty and violence. By reaching the accord, the Trump administration has also overcome Mexico’s historic reticence to deepen cooperation with the United States on an issue widely seen here as America’s problem.
The White House had no immediate comment.
According to outlines of the plan, known as Remain in Mexico, asylum applicants at the border will have to stay in Mexico while their cases are processed, potentially ending the system, which Trump decries as “catch and release,” that has generally allowed those seeking refuge to wait on safer U.S. soil.
“For now, we have agreed to this policy of Remain in Mexico,” said Olga Sánchez Cordero, Mexico’s incoming interior minister, the top domestic policy official for López Obrador, who takes office Dec. 1. In an interview with The Washington Post, she called it a “short-term solution.”
“The medium- and long-term solution is that people don’t migrate,” Sánchez Cordero said. “Mexico has open arms and everything, but imagine, one caravan after another after another, that would also be a problem for us.”
Rather than a few asylum seekers being processed each day at the port of entry in Tijuana, because the ability to process cases will no longer be limited by available detention space, many more asylum applications can be taken. More importantly, this puts a major dent in the scam of illegals applying for amnesty and being released on “parole” to reappear for their hearing.
After an initial fear screening at the port of entry, the asylum seeker would wait until his or her scheduled court appearance before an immigration judge. Then the asylum seeker would be escorted to a federal courthouse by U.S. officers, but would potentially have to return to Mexico again if the judge did not reach an immediate determination on the claim.
Under the rules, an applicant whose asylum claim is denied would not be allowed to return to Mexico. Instead, the person would remain in U.S. custody and face immediate deportation to his or her home country.
The move appears to have caught the advocacy groups attempting to encourage illegal immigration by surprise:
“We have not seen a specific proposal, but any policy that would leave individuals stranded in Mexico would inevitably put people in danger,” said Lee Gelernt, an ACLU attorney whose team has won several legal victories against the Trump administration’s immigration initiatives in recent months.
“The Administration ought to concentrate on providing a fair and lawful asylum process in the U.S. rather than inventing more and more ways to try to short-circuit it,” Gelernt said.
The measures could also trigger legal challenges, though Gelernt said it was too early to comment on potential litigation.
What the caravans, which seem to be something other than spontaneous gatherings of Central Americans, seem to have done is put the US and Mexico on the same side of the debate about how to handle illegal immigration. The new Mexican President, Andrés Manuel López Obrador, was elected on a platform of populism, not quite “Mexico First” but damned close to it. The Central American caravans have not been popular in Mexico and they certainly aren’t popular in Tijuana. In fact, the represent a direct challenge to López Obrador’a authority. Cooperating to make it obvious that this behavior is a non-starter for both the US and Mexico could go a long way towards improving trust on the border.
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