MEXICO CITY/EL PASO — The United States has doubled the number of asylum seekers it sends back each day to Mexico from El Paso, Texas, a Mexican immigration official said on Friday, in the first sign of action following a deal struck to avert U.S. tariffs last week.
Luis Carlos Cano, a spokesman for Mexico’s national immigration agency in Ciudad Juarez, across the border from El Paso, said starting Thursday some 200 asylum seekers per day were being sent back, up from 100 previously.
Under pressure from U.S. President Donald Trump, Mexico agreed last week to expand the program, known as the Migrant Protection Protocols, which forces mostly Central American asylum seekers arriving at the U.S. southern border to remain in Mexico to await the outcome of their U.S. asylum claims.
The program, known as Remain in Mexico, currently operates in Tijuana, Mexicali and Ciudad Juarez. Close to 12,000 people have been returned to Mexico since it began in January.
However, Mexico has not accepted that the United States send it an unlimited number of asylum seekers, Foreign Minister Marcelo Ebrard said, ahead of meetings with U.S. officials on Friday to determine details of the expansion.
Ebrard said officials would discuss which cities the program would expand to, as well as how to measure the number of people and which nationalities Mexico would accept.
“Today there is a meeting with U.S. authorities, to learn, to discuss the ports of entry and how the number will be measured, because Mexico has not accepted that it be undetermined,” he said at a news conference.
Trump on Friday confirmed that the deal also included a plan to establish Mexico as a “safe third country” in which asylum seekers would have to seek refuge instead of in the United States, if Mexico did not do enough to reduce migration by mid-July through enforcement measures.
Asked in a Fox News interview if the plan included that option if Mexico cannot stem the flow of Central American migrants headed for the United States, Trump said, “It’s exactly right, and that’s what’s going to happen.”
Trump also named Tom Homan as “Border Czar.” Homan is a veteran of U.S. Immigration and Customs Enforcement and served as the agency’s acting head during the first year of Trump’s presidency. He retired last year, after increasing arrests of non-criminal immigrants.