WASHINGTON — The Trump administration is expected on Friday to block an estimated 100 asylum seekers from entering the United States from Mexico, using the San Ysidro border crossing near San Diego as the first location to turn back immigrants applying for refugee status, according to a senior United States official briefed on the move.
The policy to block asylum seekers was first announced last month by Kirstjen Nielsen, the Department of Homeland Security secretary, and Secretary of State Mike Pompeo. It will gradually be expanded over the next two weeks at other border crossings with heavy foot traffic in Texas, New Mexico and Arizona, said the official, who spoke on condition of anonymity.
The move is intended to dissuade immigrants, mostly from Central America, from making the long and dangerous journey through Mexico to the southwestern United States border. The policy is likely to intensify pressure on the Mexican authorities, who are already struggling to deal with thousands of Central American immigrants who have applied for humanitarian visas in Tapachula, near the border with Guatemala.
It will apply both to some asylum seekers who have already entered the United States and those who were stopped while trying to enter. Asylum seekers generally have been allowed to wait in the United States, often for years, waiting for their cases to be processed.
Despite President Trump’s efforts to limit refugees, the number of migrants who asked for asylum last year out of fear of returning to their home countries jumped nearly 70 percent from 2017, according to Department of Homeland Security data. Nearly 60 percent of all foreigners asking for asylum were people in families.
The announcement was announced on Thursday amid tense negotiations between American and Mexican officials over how it would be carried out. It was primarily intended to relieve pressure on American immigration officials, but the senior official said it also was intended to highlight what the White House has called a “humanitarian crisis.”
Mr. Trump shut down the government over a month ago over demands that House Democrats allocate $5.7 billion for the construction of a new wall on the Mexican border. His plan failed in the Republican-controlled Senate on Thursday, leaving no clear path for an end to the longest funding lapse in American history.
Under the new policy, asylum seekers who are turned back to Mexico will receive a notice informing them of their right to be heard in United States immigration court after 45 days, officials said.
Immigrants rights groups are expected to challenge the move in court, and they are likely to argue that forcing asylum seekers to wait in Mexican border cities puts them at greater risk in a region known for its high murder rates.
The Mexican authorities had long expected the move, but were taken aback when they were told early on Thursday that the plan would take effect on Friday.
That will force the Mexican government to create a system for processing, housing and protecting the asylum seekers who would now congregate on their side of the border.