Photo: Rodrigo Abd (AP)

The Trump administration is attempting to change the asylum system for migrants seeking to enter through the Southern border, altering border policy to force migrants to wait in Mexico while their claims are processed.

According to the Washington Post, the change relies on a new agreement with the Mexican government brokered by the Trump administration and Mexican president-elect Andrés Manuel López Obrador. On Sunday, officials from the incoming Mexican government disputed the Post’s report, and the deal appears to be up in the air.

Per the Post:

According to outlines of the plan, known as Remain in Mexico, asylum applicants at the border will have to stay in Mexico while their cases are processed, potentially ending the system, which Trump decries as “catch and release,” that has generally allowed those seeking refuge to wait on safer U.S. soil.

On a practical level, this is a travesty for many people fleeing violence in Latin America. Many migrants have relatives already living in the United States, and before this policy, were usually allowed to find a home in the country while their asylum claim was processed. Now, they’ll be forced to stay in camps.

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The reported policy comes after weeks of tension on the border, which the Trump administration stoked for political gain during the midterms. On Monday, the DHS shut down the entire Northbound section of the largest border crossing in California, citing unsubstantiated claims that migrants were planning to rush the border.

The justification for the new policy, it seems, is the woeful lack of space at migrant facilities on the Southern border. According to the Post, the government claims that asylum seekers who show up at a legal point of entry will get an “initial screening interview” to see if they face “imminent danger” in Mexico. If they don’t, they’ll be placed in camps in Mexico while the claims are processed.

Advocates are already up in arms over the possible deal, which they say will have disastrous consequences for vulnerable people seeking safety.

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“[The deal with Mexico] is a pathetic attempt by the US to shirk responsibility... Should any of migrants trapped in Mexico face persecution or fall into harm’s way in Mexico the US government will be responsible,” Alison Parker, the director of U.S. programs at Human Rights Watch said in a statement. “With this new policy, once again the US has started a race to the bottom when it comes to human rights. This is likely to push people fleeing for their lives into riskier attempts to find safety, including using criminal human smugglers who will gain power under this new policy.”

The logic behind asylum is simple: you are allowed into a country if you fear death or persecution outside of that country. This is a vitally important institution in America, seeing as it’s basically the one the country was founded on. People are allowed to come here to try to make a better life.

The long term goal of this policy, Mexican officials said, is the opposite of that.

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Per the Post:

“For now, we have agreed to this policy of Remain in Mexico,” said Olga Sánchez Cordero, Mexico’s incoming interior minister, the top domestic policy official for López Obrador, who takes office Dec. 1. In an interview with The Washington Post, she called it a “short-term solution.”

The medium- and long-term solution is that people don’t migrate,” Sánchez Cordero said. “Mexico has open arms and everything, but imagine, one caravan after another after another, that would also be a problem for us.”

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We’re a hell of a long way from lifting our lamp beside the golden door now.

Update, 11/25/2018, 10:28 a.m.: The deal appears to be in dispute. According to the Associated Press, the incoming Mexican government is pushing back and denying the Post’s report. The same official quoted above about “medium- and long-term solution” released a statement denying that the deal had gone through.

“There is no agreement of any sort between the incoming Mexican government and the U.S. government,” future Interior Minister Olga Sanchez said in a statement.

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Per AP:

Sanchez did not explain in the statement why The Washington Post had quoted her as saying there had been agreement.

White House spokesman Hogan Gidley said, “President Trump has developed a strong relationship with the incoming (Lopez) Obrador Administration, and we look forward to working with them on a wide range of issues.”

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The lead and headline to this story have been updated to reflect the new information.