Homeland Security Secretary Kirstjen Nielsen on Monday said the department will begin forcing more Central American migrants seeking asylum to remain in Mexico while their proceedings take place as the situation at the southern border worsens.
“The crisis at our border is worsening, and DHS will do everything in its power to end it,” Nielsen said in a statement. “We will not stand idly by while Congress fails to act yet again, so all options are on the table."
Nielsen is expanding the Migrant Protection Protocols, which was set in place in December. MPP, or the "Return to Mexico" policy, mandates those who wish to apply for asylum at a port of entry must return to Mexico and wait there while their case moves through the immigration court system.
Hundreds more of the 3,000 migrants being encountered daily will be sent back to various northern border cities in Mexico. Nielsen said the change includes individuals taken into custody for illegally crossing into the United States, as well as those who claim a credible fear of returning home while at a port of entry.
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DHS is also planning to further expand MPP in California and Texas.
U.S. Customs and Border Protection Commissioner Kevin McAleenan said last week asylum claims now take two to five years to be decided. Nearly 900,000 cases are tied up in the system.
Nielsen also ordered McAleenan to speed up that process and begin looking at raising that number of relocated officers to as many as 2,000. CBP can exceed that 2,000 figure but must first get permission from the secretary.
Last week McAleenan said he was relocating 750 officers to regions of the U.S.-Mexico border where Border Patrol was inundated with migrant apprehensions and encounters.
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