Trump Administration Plan to Keep Asylum Seekers in Mexico is the Invisible Wall that Puts Lives at Risk

December 20, 2018

WASHINGTONJust two hours before Homeland Security Secretary Kirstjen Nielsen was due to testify before the House Judiciary Committee – and in the wake of yesterday's federal court decision finding that recent rules restricting asylum access were unlawful – the Trump administration notified the government of Mexico that it plans to keep many asylum seekers arriving at the southern border in Mexico while they wait for an immigration court hearing.

The new policy would require many individuals seeking protection in the United States, including children and other vulnerable individuals, to remain in Mexico until their asylum claim is decided by an overwhelmingly backlogged U.S. immigration court system, potentially spending months or even years in life-threatening conditions.

The following statement is from Beth Werlin, executive director of the American Immigration Council:

“Today’s announcement is the latest in a series of attacks on asylum seekers, including families and children fleeing grave and serious harm. It amounts to an invisible wall designed to block and deter vulnerable people from accessing the protection they need.

“Although the U.S. government stated it will initiate this new process immediately, no other guidance or information has been issued to explain how the policy will be implemented. Many questions remain as to how immigration officials will apply the policy to individuals arriving at the border, where court proceedings will take place, and whether those kept in Mexico will be safe for the many months, if not years, it will take to process their cases. The only certainty is that meaningful access to counsel for those waiting in Mexico will not be possible.

“The administration has learned no lessons from the past two years. We are risking anew the creation of chaos we witnessed as the travel ban took effect in early 2017 without guidance to border and port officials or travelers.

“The Trump administration need not operate from a place of fear when there are workable solutions that keep people safe and maintain the rule of law. There is clear evidence that families released from detention overwhelmingly appear for their court proceedings, especially when they have an immigration attorney. We can face the challenges of our immigration system by embracing our humanitarian obligations and reinforcing our system with robust due process.”

Our experts are available for comment. Our research on asylum and refugee policy and a current lawsuit challenging Customs and Border Protection's practice of turning away asylum seekers at ports of entry can be found on our website,


For more information, contact:

Royce Murray at the American Immigration Council, [email protected] or 202-507-7510.

Media Contact

Elyssa Pachico
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