WASHINGTON, D.C. – The Department of Homeland Security announced today a new agreement with the Mexican government in which the U.S. will return individuals in the country illegally to Mexico while their immigration cases move forward. Policy Analyst David Inserra and Ana Quintana, senior policy analyst for Latin America and the Western Hemisphere, released a response to this announcement:
Inserra: "America’s asylum process should be judicious, fair and efficient, and offer those who qualify the opportunity to obtain relief from persecution. Unfortunately, the current process is broken, backlogged and bureaucratic, and in desperate need of repair.
"The policy announced today – one very similar to recommendations by The Heritage Foundation – is a positive step in the right direction. Adjudicating asylum claims in Mexico would help resolve the ‘catch and release’ dilemma, reduce the deadly human trafficking incentivized under current law, and give our immigration officials more time to fairly and judiciously handle claims. Simply put, this is good policy by the administration, and Congress should follow its lead in legislating common-sense reforms to our immigration system."
Quintana: "Today’s announcement is a game-changer for the U.S.’ efforts to counter illegal immigration and address the challenges in Central America. The U.S. and Mexico are broadening cooperation on a range of migration-related issues and earlier this week, Mexico committed an unprecedented level of resources to this effort. The American people should commend the Departments of Homeland Security and State for achieving a winning deal."
One of the most serious problems the U.S. faces in its immigration system is that when illegal immigrants cross the border, they can claim asylum to prevent their quick deportation. Recent data shows the overwhelming majority of asylum claims from those in the "northern triangle" countries in Central America do not meet the legal qualifications for asylum. More than 30 percent of claimants who pass the initial credible-fear interview do not show up for their hearing, 40 percent do not even formally file for asylum, and ultimately, a mere 9 percent of asylum claims from northern triangle countries are found eligible by an immigration judge. The U.S. currently has an asylum backlog of over 786,000 pending cases, which does not well serve U.S. interests or those asylum seekers with legitimate claims. The prevalent use of asylum claims to gain access to the United States has placed substantial strain on the asylum system and limited its ability to properly handle legitimate claims.