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U.S. Will Send Migrants Back To Mexico While Asylum Claims Are Processed

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The Trump administration also announced today a new plan that will affect tens of thousands of migrants hoping for asylum in the U.S. They will now have to wait in Mexico while their asylum claims are being processed. While many details still need to be hashed out, Mexico is largely going along with this change. NPR's Carrie Kahn reports.

CARRIE KAHN, BYLINE: Mexico says it received the announcement from the U.S. early this morning. Effective immediately, the U.S. will require asylum-seekers to return to Mexico and wait out their petitions there. Department of Homeland Security Secretary Kirstjen Nielsen says the new policy is necessary to prevent people from gaming the asylum process. Most, she says, disappear into the U.S. and skip out on court dates. For its part, Mexico says it has no choice but to respond to this unilateral policy change by the Trump administration. Alejandro Alday Gonzalez is with Mexico's foreign relations ministry.

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ALEJANDRO ALDAY GONZALEZ: (Speaking Spanish).

KAHN: "We are doing this because it is the humanitarian thing to do," says Alday. Mexico says it will give visas and work permits to foreigners applying for asylum in the U.S. Alday says this is not a permanent agreement. The U.S. has been pressuring Mexico for months to sign on as a so-called third safe country where migrants would petition for U.S. asylum from Mexico.

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ALDAY: (Speaking Spanish).

KAHN: "This is not the case. There are great differences here," added Alday. While details of the agreement still need to be hashed out, Mexico's acceptance of foreign nationals is a significant shift in policy and likely to draw criticism at home. Many will see it as Mexico's new president, Andres Manuel Lopez Obrador, capitulating to Trump. The two have had a cordial public relationship so far. Rafael Fernandez de Castro of the Center for U.S.-Mexican Studies at UC San Diego says this is a risky move by the New Mexican administration.

RAFAEL FERNANDEZ DE CASTRO: They don't have the time to fully assess the consequences of this because it's - they've only been in office three weeks.

KAHN: It's unclear how Mexico plans to deal with thousands of migrants in northern border cities, which are some of the most dangerous in the country. The new head of Mexico's immigration service also threw the plan into question, saying in the short term, the country is not prepared to take any new U.S. asylum-seekers. Carrie Kahn, NPR News, Mexico City.

(SOUNDBITE OF PRHYME SONG, "COURTESY") Transcript provided by NPR, Copyright NPR.


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