Asylum-Seekers to be Returned to Mexico Pending Decision; Pompeo Foresees ‘Historic Drop in Illegal Immigration’

Patrick Goodenough | December 21, 2018 | 4:14am EST
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Illegal immigrants climb over the U.S.-Mexico border fence near Tijuana on December 3, 2018 near Tijuana, Mexico. (Photo by John Moore/Getty Images)

( – Secretary of State Mike Pompeo on Thursday predicted that a new plan to send illegal aliens back to Mexico to await the outcome of U.S. asylum applications will result in “a truly historic drop in illegal immigration,” since the prospect of being able to disappear into the U.S. will no longer be an incentive.

“The idea of ‘catch and release’ will be replaced with ‘catch and return,’” Pompeo told Laura Ingraham on the final episode of her long-running radio show, after Homeland Security Secretary Kirstjen Nielsen announced the policy, which is to be implemented with immediate effect.    

Aliens crossing the southern border illegally, or arriving at a border port of entry without proper documentation and applying for asylum will be given a court date and “notice to appear” before being returned to Mexico.

The Mexican government has agreed they may stay there on the basis of a humanitarian visa, apply for paid employment, get access to immigration attorneys, and be able to travel to the U.S. for their court hearings.

According to the DHS, federal immigration judges rule against nine out of ten asylum claims, but by the time unsuccessful applicants are ordered to be removed from the country, “many have vanished.”

Pompeo acknowledged the likelihood of lawsuits challenging the decision, but said the administration was confident the plan was legal, as it’s based on long existing law.

Section 235 of the Immigration and Naturalization Act of 1952 states that when an alien arrives on land from a foreign territory contiguous to the United States with a claim for asylum to be considered, “the Attorney General may return the alien to that territory pending a proceeding.”

“We remain convinced that this is a power that the president was granted by Congress to execute exactly the way we have,” Pompeo told Ingraham. “We’ve had lots of thought and legal review of this. We are confident that we are on firm ground.”

In her statement, Nielsen said, “Aliens trying to game the system to get into our country illegally will no longer be able to disappear into the United States, where many skip their court dates. Instead, they will wait for an immigration court decision while they are in Mexico.”

The Trump administration is invoking section 235(b)(2)(C) of the Immigration and Nationality Act of 1952. (Image:USCIS/

She listed expected benefits arising from the policy, including:

--Declining illegal immigration and fewer false asylum claims
--Greater attention to be given to genuine asylum-seekers’ applications, since incentives for “fraudsters” will be gone
--The freeing-up of resources and personnel to focus on protecting U.S. territory and reducing an asylum backlog of more than 786,000 pending cases
--Protection for vulnerable individuals as they await determination of their cases in Mexico.

In his radio interview, Pompeo offered another purported benefit – that migrants will not face the risks entailed in making the journey from their home countries, through Mexico, to the U.S. border.

Mexico’s foreign ministry confirmed that it would respond to the policy by authorizing the temporary entrance of migrants awaiting asylum applications in the U.S.

“They will be entitled to equal treatment with no discrimination whatsoever and due respect will be paid to their human rights,” the ministry said in a statement. “They will also have the opportunity to apply for a work permit for paid employment, which will allow them to meet their basic needs.”

Those who have received a notice to appear before an immigration court in the U.S. will be allowed access to legal and information services.

The ministry stressed that its actions, and those taken by the U.S., do not constitute a “safe third country” arrangement – whereby the migrants concerned would be required to apply for asylum in Mexico.

Although they may apply for asylum in Mexico, the arrangement is intended to facilitate their applications in the U.S.

White House press secretary Sarah Sanders praised the Mexican government, saying on Twitter it was “now doing more to solve our illegal immigration problem than the Democrats.”

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