Migrants are now being returned to Mexico to await asylum hearings

We’d already heard rumors that this was coming but now it’s official. The backlog of migrants waiting for hearings to decide their asylum claims has completely flooded the system, leading to unsustainable waiting times and immigration courts that are months or even years behind schedule. The downstream problems caused by this situation are well known and a new approach was required. Now the Trump administration has begun sending some claimants back across the border to Mexico to await their hearings. And Mexico is onboard with the policy and cooperating. (Reuters)

The Trump administration plans to begin turning asylum seekers back across the southern border to wait in Mexico Friday under a new policy designed to crack down on immigration by Central American families, according to three Department of Homeland Security officials familiar with the matter.

Customs and Border Protection officers will begin returning asylum seekers attempting to enter at the San Ysidro port of entry in California from Tijuana, Mexico, where thousands of migrants from Honduras, Guatemala and El Salvador are already waiting in poor conditions.

Under current policy, immigrants who pass an initial “credible fear” interview are allowed to remain in the U.S. while they wait for immigration judges to decide their cases. Single adults are detained while they await their hearing, but a federal court decision in 2015 mandates that families with children be detained no longer than 20 days.

The old policy mostly worked when they were only processing a comparative handful of applicants on any given day. At one time it was entirely possible that a family with children could get a hearing within twenty days and not be released into the interior of the country without a resolution. But the advent of caravans and other instances of mass migration have completely overwhelmed the system.

So in order to comply with the law saying families with children can only be detained for twenty days, we either need to let many of them go after setting a court date that a significant number of them will ignore or “release” them back across the border to await their hearing. The latter is obviously preferable in terms of national security and the fact that Mexico is cooperating makes it all the better. They get something out of this deal as well because they now have a large source of labor available and are allowing the migrants to earn a living on the books rather than staying in the shadows and worrying about being deported.

Of course, this decision is immediately being challenged in court by self-appointed rights activists. But what else is new? They’ve challenged virtually every decision the President has made on immigration policy. (And everything else for that matter.) They will no doubt be able to find a judge to issue an injunction, most likely in California. And then we’ll start the process of pumping this question up toward the Supreme Court all over again.