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Homeland Security Begins Policy Dubbed Migrant Protection Protocols

STEVE INSKEEP, HOST:

Homeland Security Secretary Kirstjen Nielsen was at the border in San Diego yesterday. She's promoting a new policy for some people who seek asylum at the U.S.-Mexico border. They're being told to stay in Mexico during their application process. Here's reporter Max Rivlin-Nadler.

MAX RIVLIN-NADLER, BYLINE: Last week, DHS announced that the new policy - dubbed the Migrant Protection Protocols - would begin with the return of 20 asylum-seekers to Mexico this past Friday. But it didn't return any of them until Tuesday morning, when one man was escorted out of the U.S. Alyssa Isidoridy, a lawyer, described the scene.

ALYSSA ISIDORIDY: The journalists swarmed him immediately. And the Mexican official was ushering him on the way to the van, where they promptly put him in the van and drove him away.

RIVLIN-NADLER: No other asylum-seekers were returned to Mexico on Tuesday. In another shift, the U.S. increased the daily number of asylum-seekers it accepted into the country. Eighty people crossed the border - around double the average over the past few weeks. In a statement after her tour of the port of entry, Secretary Nielsen said the new policy will be a huge step forward in bringing order to chaotic migration flows. But several legal organizations are already looking into challenging the new policy. Judy Rabinovitz is with the ACLU.

JUDY RABINOVITZ: This raises real questions under both the statute and under international law, you know, to be returning people to such dangerous conditions.

RIVLIN-NADLER: Asylum-seekers will now be in a separate country from their lawyers, who are trying to figure out how this can work. Andrew Nietor, a San Diego-based attorney, represents asylum-seekers.

ANDREW NIETOR: It's not clear to me whether I'm allowed to go to Mexico and legally engage in the practice of law.

RIVLIN-NADLER: Nietor believes his clients already face an uphill battle for asylum and that this new policy will further discourage people from making asylum claims.

NIETOR: From step one, it seems that the administration has tried to do everything they can to put as many hurdles in front of these individuals and make it as hard as possible for them to make their claim.

RIVLIN-NADLER: Secretary Nielsen says the new policy will discourage fraudulent asylum claims. For NPR News, I'm Max Rivlin-Nadler in Tijuana.

(SOUNDBITE OF WHALE FALL'S "JULIA, TRAIN, SLOW DOWN") Transcript provided by NPR, Copyright NPR.


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