U.S. says to expand program sending asylum seekers to Mexico

WASHINGTON (Reuters) – Mexico has agreed to take more migrants seeking asylum in the United States while they await adjudication of their cases, according to details of an agreement reached late on Friday that led President Donald Trump to call off threatened tariffs.

“The United States will immediately expand the implementation of the existing Migrant Protection Protocols across its entire Southern Border,” the two countries said in a joint declaration following three days of talks.

“This means that those crossing the U.S. Southern Border to seek asylum will be rapidly returned to Mexico where they may await the adjudication of their asylum claims,” it said.

“In response, Mexico will authorize the entrance of all of those individuals for humanitarian reasons, in compliance with its international obligations, while they await the adjudication of their asylum claims,” the declaration said.

The Migrant Protection Protocols plan, announced in December, is aimed at curbing the increasing number of families arriving mostly from Central America who say they fear returning to their home countries due to threats of violence. The Trump administration says many of the claims are not valid.

Mexico has also agreed to increase enforcement to curb illegal immigration, including deploying its National Guard throughout the country with a focus on its southern border, and cracking down on human smuggling organizations, according to the declaration.

The United States and Mexico will continue discussions on illegal immigration and if the measures in the agreement “do not have the expected results, they will take further actions” and announce them within 90 days.

U.S. Secretary of State Mike Pompeo issued a separate statement thanking his Mexican counterpart, Foreign Minister Marcelo Ebrard.

“The United States looks forward to working alongside Mexico to fulfill these commitments so that we can stem the tide of illegal migration across our southern border and to make our border strong and secure,” Pompeo said.

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