by Neetu Chandak
President Donald Trump’s strict immigration policies are deterring Central American migrants from seeking asylum in the U.S., and many are now choosing to seek refuge in Mexico.
“Trump has created a policy of being unwelcome,” Hiram Villarreal of Casa de Refugiados, a Mexico City-based organization that helps migrants, told the Washington Blade. “It motivates people to stay and not go north.”
The Trump administration has made border security a priority. The White House enacted a zero tolerance policy on immigration enforcement, which prosecuted anybody who illegally entered the U.S. The policy also led to family separation as children cannot be held in federal criminal detention facilities, though the administration has recently tried to reunite children with their parents.
Attorney General Jeff Sessions also clarified the conditions to qualify for asylum in a piece June 11.
“An alien may suffer threats and violence in a foreign country for any number of reasons relating to her social, economic, family, or other personal circumstances,” Sessions wrote. “Yet the asylum statute does not provide redress for all misfortune.”
Mexico City is seen as a “sanctuary city” for migrants as a result of Trump’s policies, according to the Blade. Venezuelans are increasingly fleeing to Mexico due to the economic crisis. Latin Americans, additionally, who are members of the LGBT community are seeking asylum to the country to escape persecution for their sexual orientations.
Those seeking asylum in Mexico must formally make a request within 30 days of entering the country.
The Mexican Commission for Refugee Aid (COMAR) interviews asylum seekers and determines whether the individuals claims of persecution are valid. COMAR has 45 days to make the decision.
Those admitted receive access to public health care and social security benefits. Spanish speakers can request to become citizens after three years, while non-Spanish speakers can become citizens after five years.
Having an asylum request approved in Mexico is difficult, however. Mexico denied nearly 90 percent of asylum requests between fiscal years 2012 to 2017, according to Transactional Records Access Clearinghouse at Syracuse University.
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