The U.S. has reached a deal with the Mexican government to force asylum seekers at its southern border to remain in Mexico while they wait to bring their case before an American immigration judge, the Trump administration announced Thursday.
The move comes as the Trump administration has faced setbacks in court for hardline immigration policies. Two federal judges on Wednesday issued separate rulings blocking other efforts by President Donald Trump to curb asylum claims.
Mexico has previously refused to accept the return of migrants who aren’t Mexican. The result was that an influx of migrants from Central American countries have been allowed inside the U.S. while their asylum cases wind through the immigration courts.
The Trump administration has said many immigrants claim asylum to gain entry into the United States only to disappear before a court date. Officials predicted Thursday that the new approach, which would become effective immediately, would result in a dramatic drop in asylum claims.
Homeland Security Secretary Kirstjen Nielsen announced the plan at a hearing Thursday before the House Judiciary Committee.
“They will not be able to disappear into the United States,” she told the House Judiciary Committee.
This policy is effective immediately, she said.
“As a result, ‘catch and release’ will now be revised to ‘catch and return,'” an administration official told reporters, speaking on condition of background in advance of Nielsen’s testimony.
“This policy is effective immediately,” the official later added.
The Associated Press reported Thursday that Mexico’s Foreign Relations Department said the move was a temporary, humanitarian measure.
On Wednesday, a federal judge blocked a separate policy that restricts asylum claims of migrants fleeing domestic and gang-related violence. Also, a federal judge in California issued a nationwide preliminary injunction against a Trump administration rulemaking anyone who crosses the southern border somewhere other than a designated port of entry ineligible for asylum.