The "Remain in Mexico" plan is deterring Central American asylum seekers

On July 26, the Texas Tribune published an article called Migrants giving up on asylum after Trump policies slow them down. The article explains how in the Mexican border city of Nuevo Laredo, President Donald Trump’s Remain in Mexico program to discourage Central American migrants from applying for asylum at the border appears to be working.

The Remain in Mexico program, formally named the Migrant Protection Protocols, is a U.S. Government action under which aliens applying for asylum at the border may be returned to Mexico, where they will remain for the duration of their immigration proceedings.

The Honduran

Olvin Alexander Buezo left his family in Honduras, figuring that he would bring his family later. He had hoped to enroll his 7-year-old son in an elementary school in Foley, Alabama. He planned to find a relatively well-paying job in the U.S., to finance the $6,000 debt he incurred to pay his smuggler. As of Thursday, he was already in southern Mexico, on the way back home in Honduras. Buezo was an economic migrant; not an asylum seeker.

The Situation in Nuevo Laredo

The border city of Nuevo Laredo is in the Mexican state of Tamaulipas, one of five Mexican states the U.S. Department of State has warned travelers not to visit, due to rampant gang activity and the risk of being kidnapped. Under Remain in Mexico, potential immigrants seeking asylum are being returned from Laredo, Texas to Nuevo Laredo.

Recently, the Mexican government began organizing busloads carrying Hondurans, Guatemalans and Salvadorans who had already been returned from Laredo to Nuevo Laredo, down south to Monterrey, where they are left to fend for themselves. Last week, dozens of Central Americans at a migrant processing facility in Nuevo Laredo were asked by The Texas Tribune to raise their hands if they wanted to return to their countries of origin. Nearly all of them did.

Many are opting for the safety of the bus to Monterrey over the mean streets of Nuevo Laredo, and won’t be coming back. Although they have been given a “notice to appear” in coming weeks for asylum hearings in Laredo, Texas, many say they’re giving up and returning home to avoid being targeted by the local drug cartels or going deeper into debt for ever-decreasing prospects for gaining entry to the U.S. To them, “seeking asylum” in the U.S. just isn't worth the trouble any more.

The El Salvadoran

Kevin Guillermo Melendez is an 18-year-old migrant from El Salvador whose mother left him when he was 3 years old, to migrate to the United States. He says that he dropped out of school to avoid Salvadoran gangs who were extorting his mother by threatening to kidnap him. He hired a smuggler to take him across the U.S. border illegally, but was caught and sent back to Nuevo Laredo. His mother begged him to stay in Mexico and wait for his hearing in Laredo. Even so, he is now returning to his home country. Melendez is not a legitimate asylum seeker.