US Border Patrol Carry out Security Drills Near Mexican Border Crossing Points

February 2, 2019 Updated: February 2, 2019

U.S. border patrol officers performed a series of drills near its international border with Mexico, as thousands of Central American migrants cross overland toward the northern frontier seeking asylum in the United States.

Reuters video shot from Ciudad Juarez on Thursday, Jan. 31 in Mexico, showed officers in riot gear and using gas.

Officers in smoke tear gas
Officers in formation amidst smoke in Tijuana, Mexico, on Jan. 30, 2019. (Screenshot/Video Reuters)

At the Tijuana crossing point late on Friday, officers laid out barb wire as part of another security operation.

Police set up barb wire
Officers laying out barb wire in Tijuana, Mexico, on Jan. 30, 2019. (Screenshot/Video Reuters)

Trump has hardened his stance on immigration, and specifically against the caravan of migrants. He has sought to suspend the granting of asylum to illegal immigrants who cross the U.S.-Mexico border illegally, seeking fresh ways to block thousands of Central Americans traveling in caravans from entering the United States. He has also said any migrants seeking asylum will have to wait in Mexico whilst the claim is heard.

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US Starts Returning Asylum-Seekers to Mexico Under New Policy

TIJUANA, Mexico—The Trump administration launched an effort to discourage thousands of migrants from seeking asylum and subsequently disappearing into the United States—by sending them to Mexico to wait out their cases. On Jan. 28, the first one was returned to Tijuana. The migrant-heavy border city was not happy about it.

The Mexican federal government, however, has reluctantly agreed to the policy.

Under the policy, called the Migrant Protection Protocol (MPP), many asylum-seekers entering the southwestern border may be returned to Mexico while they wait for their immigration hearings in the United States. So far MPP only applies to the San Ysidro Border Crossing between San Diego and Tijuana.

Mexican Foreign Ministry spokesman Roberto Velasco criticized the United States for the new program but said Mexico will strive to uphold international law in their actions.

“The government of Mexico does not agree with the unilateral measure implemented by the government of the United States. Notwithstanding and in congruence with our new migratory policy, we reiterate our commitment to migrants and human rights,” he said.

Department of Homeland Security Secretary Kirstjen Nielsen first announced the program in December, then-called the Remain in Mexico policy. Last week rumors circulated that it would begin immediately. The start of the program coincided with Nielsen’s visit to the San Ysidro Port of Entry to conduct an operational tour on Jan. 28. One asylum seeker from Honduras was returned to Tijuana that morning.

“The MPP will enable DHS to take a huge step forward in bringing order to chaotic migration flows, restoring the rule of law and the integrity of the United States immigration system, and allowing DHS to focus resources on providing relief to individuals fleeing persecution while at the same time holding those accountable who make false asylum claims,” Nielsen said in a statement.

It does not apply to unaccompanied minors. The program’s launch comes as a second caravan of thousands of Central Americans makes its way north, with many planning to reach the U.S. border to seek asylum. Last year, a large caravan brought more than 6,000 migrants to Tijuana, bogging down the city’s resources and causing protests.

Mexicans protest the migrant caravan from Central America as riot police keep them away from the migrant encampment in Tijuana, Mexico, on Nov. 18, 2018. (Charlotte Cuthbertson/The Epoch Times)

Honduran reporter Josué Cover told The Epoch Times on Jan. 17 that Honduran migrants that left with the new caravan in January are encouraged to head north by stories from those who left with the first caravan and successfully crossed the border.

I was able to interview three minors who told me ‘Well my mom went with my little sister in the other caravan and they are already in the United States, now the three of us are going.’ They are 17, 16, and 12 years old, they are going together because they believe that they will cross through.”Cover said many bring young children because they are told—by coyotes and by migrants who have successfully entered the United States—it will be easier to enter the country that way.

“The coyotes tell them ‘Please, if you are going to come, then come with a minor, with a baby, because that way you are given more support. That is, they are given the opportunity to cross to the United States.”

Migrants depart from Honduras on Jan. 13 (Josue Cover)

The Trump administration has been trying to get Congress to close the catch-and-release loophole. Under catch-and-release, illegal aliens who claim asylum are able to stay and work in the United States for years until their immigration court date—but most don’t show up.

Currently, the immigration system has about 800,000 pending cases.

NTD reporter Kimberly Hayek contributed to this report.

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