Mexico lashes out as US extends policy of returning asylum-seekers

Mexico City (AFP) –


The United States plans to extend its policy of returning asylum-seeking migrants back over the southern border to await their court hearings, triggering backlash from Mexico over the "unilateral measure."

The policy -- US President Donald Trump's latest bid to deter undocumented immigrants -- will now be applied at a second border crossing: the one between Calexico, California and its Mexican sister city, Mexicali, the Mexican foreign ministry said Tuesday, citing US officials.

The measure, which has been criticized by rights groups, was first implemented in January at the crossing between Tijuana and San Ysidro, California.

"The Mexican government reiterates that it does not agree with this unilateral measure implemented by the US authorities," the foreign ministry said in a statement.

The policy, known as the Migrant Protection Protocols, applies only to non-Mexican migrants.

Trump, who originally dubbed it the "Remain in Mexico" policy, unveiled the idea last year as a series of caravans with thousands of Central American migrants made their way to the US-Mexican border.

He called the caravans an "invasion" by "thugs" and "criminals," and regularly points to them as evidence in support of his declaration of a national emergency on the southern border and plans to build a wall there.

Mexico said it was in contact with US authorities about the migrants due to be sent back, but only for "humanitarian reasons."

"This exchange of information does not in any way mean the government of Mexico agrees with the decisions and actions being taken unilaterally by the US government," it said.

International rights groups and US immigration lawyers have accused the Trump administration of violating international law by sending people who are fleeing for their lives back to a country where they could face further harm.

Central American migrants seeking asylum in the United States are typically fleeing brutal gang violence in their home countries. Mexico's northern border region can be equally dangerous, activists say.

In January, Amnesty International condemned the Trump administration policy as "disgraceful, mean-spirited and unlawful."