Terry H. Schwadron
Nov. 25, 2018
President Trump either just make a significant deal with Mexico’s incoming government or pulling a fast one, depending on your viewpoint in immigration and perhaps other aspects of U.S.-Mexican policy making.
The Washington Post announced last night that Trump and the incoming government of Andres Manuel Lopez Obrador have agreed that migrant refugees lining up outside the U.S. border ports of entry can wait in Mexicowhile their cases are considered. Later, it seemed that there was some question as to whether Mexico had finally made the deal.
In any case — within Trump’s world view — it is a bold, if slightly deceptive way for Trump to say that no one will enter the U.S. without appropriate paperwork. It almost legally redefines what asylum means.
Of course, critics of American immigration policy note that this requires that poor, hungry, fleeing migrants will be remaining for months in northern Mexico, an area with rife crime and organizations primed to pick on refugees. In essence, they say, this move will undercut the purpose of U.S. asylum law and procedures and will endanger exactly the refugees claiming a need for refuge from criminal gangs and domestic terror in Honduras and Guatemala.
All this is true only if U.S. courts — and probably Mexican courts as well — uphold the president’s maneuvering without Congressional oversight or involvement through legislation. Otherwise, like many other attempts by the president to set a personal marker as law will be thrown out.
Already, the first federal district court to rule on the president’s executive action to redefine, and gut, U.S. asylum law has been declared illegal and unconstitutional.
It was that act that prompted a back and forth between Trump and Chief Justice John G. Roberts Jr. over whether the president even understands the role of an independent judiciary.
Perhaps it is a way for Mexico to look to these same refugees to offer at least needed temporary jobs and potentially an alternate path for Mexican citizenship. Mexican jobs are plentiful but pay a fraction of equivalent jobs in the United States.
The Post noted that the agreement between the White House and Obrador’s transition team “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.”
According to outlines, 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.
There was immediate open speculation over whether Mexico had fully processed the makings of the agreement and whether Mexico was doing so to gain substantial leverage over Americans in some other area, like trade.
The Post reported that the deal took shape last week in Houston during a meeting between Marcelo Ebrard, Mexico’s incoming foreign minister, and Secretary of State Mike Pompeo and Homeland Security Secretary Kirstjen Nielsen, according to U.S. and Mexican officials.
It also was not clear exactly what has to happen in Mexico to make the agreement real, or indeed, how it will be communicated to the caravan refugees who are beginning to arrive at the border by the hundreds.
There, they are being routed into waiting queues that are already overloaded, guaranteeing that it will be a month or two before their asylum requests can be formalized and processing begun. Clearly, who has sent more than 7,000 National Guardsmen and active military troops to the border, and said — despite objection from the Pentagon — that those troops will have the authority to return live fire against anyone who throws a rock at a soldier.
An alternative plan known as a “Safe Third” agreement also was discussed with the outgoing government of President Enrique Peña Nieto. It would have barred Central Americans from applying for asylum in the United States, on the grounds that they would no longer face persecution after arriving in Mexico. But López Obrador’s landslide victory last summer sunk those plans, and senior members of his transition team say a “Safe Third” is a non-starter.
The Post said that dozens of U.S. asylum officers have been sent to San Diego where they will begin implementing the procedures in coming days or weeks. Under the procedures, asylum seekers arriving at the border will be given an initial screening interview to determine whether they face imminent danger by staying in Mexico.The idea is that the officers can go through more asylum requests faster if they do not have to worry about housing the refugees.
At the same time, they intend increasingly to say No to asylum seekers, whether they process the quickly or slowly.
We can be sure this move will be promoted as another Promise Kept, whether it actually profess effective or not.