Democratic Sen. Catherine Cortez Masto has joined 23 other senators to ask the Trump administration to end the "Remain in Mexico" policy that is keeping more than 30,000 asylum seekers in Mexico rather than the U.S. while their immigration cases are processed.
The Migrant Protection Protocols, also known as the Remain in Mexico policy, keeps immigrants who are seeking asylum in the U.S. in Mexico until their court hearings. The waiting period for asylum seekers leaves them in dangerous cities on the Mexican side of the border, opponents say.
“Under the Remain in Mexico policy, the United States has turned its back on its domestic and international legal obligations by forcing men, women, and children to await resolution of their U.S. asylum cases in parts of Mexico plagued by violence,” the senators said in a letter sent last week to Secretary of State Mike Pompeo and Acting Department of Homeland Security Secretary Kevin McAleenan.
The senators — all Democrats plus independent Sen. Bernie Sanders — say the policy damages the country’s status as a global leader in protecting refugees. Mexican officials predict that the number of asylum seekers waiting in Mexico for their American court dates could rise to 60,000, the letter said.
Upon launching the policy in January at the San Diego-Tijuana port of entry, the Trump administration argued that the policy was a “methodical commonsense approach” to a surge of asylum seekers, and would “help to end the exploitation of our generous immigration laws.”
“The MPP will provide a safer and more orderly process that will discourage individuals from attempting illegal entry and making false claims to stay in the U.S., and allow more resources to be dedicated to individuals who legitimately qualify for asylum,” the Department of Homeland Security said in announcing the policy.
Immigrant rights groups have opposed the policy, which has also been challenged in court. As the Trump administration restricts access to the U.S. asylum system, it also places greater stress on the Mexican government, which has pushed back on the policies.
Cortez Masto has sponsored or cosponsored some two dozen bills on immigration policy during her more than two years in the Senate. These bills range from standardizing treatment of immigrants detained at the border to keeping families together that have crossed the border.