U.S. plans to turn back migrants caught at Mexican border, cites
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[March 18, 2020]
By Ted Hesson and Steve Holland
WASHINGTON (Reuters) - The Trump
administration is considering immediately returning any foreigners
caught at the U.S.-Mexico border to Mexico, arguing the step is
necessary to combat the fast-spreading coronavirus, according to two
The measure, which remains under discussion, would apply to migrants
caught crossing the illegally outside ports of entry and would not
affect legal immigration or commercial traffic, the officials said.
However, two other officials, with the U.S. Department of Homeland
Security (DHS) and U.S. Customs and Border Protection (CBP), disputed
that removing all foreigners caught at the border to Mexico was under
The Mexican government, meanwhile, said late Tuesday that it has not
received any formal proposal from U.S. officials, according to a brief
statement from the country's foreign ministry.
The statement added that Mexico would analyze the reach of any such
proposal, pledging to act in defense of its own interests, public health
and human rights.
The possible U.S. administration move, first reported by The New York
Times, would likely face court challenges ad may require the cooperation
of the Mexican government.
The Trump administration has sought to escalate its response to the
coronavirus in recent weeks as the disease has spread across the United
States, causing schools and businesses to shutter while killing more
than 100 people nationwide.
The DHS and CBP officials said separately on Tuesday that U.S. border
officials would step up returns of Mexican nationals caught crossing the
border illegally through an existing authority known as a "voluntary
Under that practice, U.S. officials can offer Mexican nationals caught
at the border the option to return to Mexico as an alternative to formal
deportation proceedings in the United States.
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"If we return people immediately without taking them back to our
processing centers, then you're minimizing the exposure," the CBP
All four officials requested anonymity because they were not
authorized to discuss the plans.
Immigrant rights groups slammed the idea of mass returns of foreign
nationals to Mexico.
"People fleeing violence from Mexico and Central American countries
are actually at greater the risk of contracting coronavirus in the
United States than in their home countries at this point," said
Linda Rivas, executive director at advocacy group Las Americas in El
Mexico has reported 82 coronavirus cases so far, compared with
nearly 6,000 in the United States.
The United States already sends non-Mexican asylum seekers to that
country under a program known as the Migrant Protection Protocols (MPP).
The U.S. Supreme Court allowed that program to remain in effect last
week pending the outcome of a legal challenge.[L1N2B41PV]
In a separate move on Tuesday, Guatemalan government said on Tuesday
that it had suspended the entrance of deportation flights from the
United States amid concerns over the spread of the coronavirus.
(Reporting by Ted Hesson, Steve Holland and Kristina Cooke;
Additional reporting Frank Jack Daniel in Mexico City; Makini Brice
and Alexandra Alper in Washington; Editing by Leslie Adler and Gerry
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