Washington: Roughly one in 10 migrants pushed back to Mexico to await US court hearings under a Trump administration programme have been caught crossing the border again, a top border official said on Thursday.
Acting US Customs and Border Protection Commissioner Mark Morgan said during a White House briefing that migrants returned to Mexico under a programme known as the Migrant Protection Protocols (MPP) have a 9% recidivism rate. Many of those migrants intend to seek asylum in the United States.
"Unfortunately, some of the individuals in the MPP programme are actually going outside the shelter environment," Morgan said. "They're re-engaging with the cartels because they're tired of waiting. And that's when we're hearing that some of that further abuse and exploitation is happening."
Nearly 59,000 migrants have been returned to Mexico under the programme, according to a CBP spokesman.
The administration of Republican President Donald Trump launched the MPP programme in January as part of a strategy to deter mostly Central American families from trekking to the US border to seek asylum. Trump officials have argued the bulk of such claims for protection lack merit and that migrants are motivated by economic concerns.
Immigration advocates say asylum seekers sent to wait in Mexican border towns, for the weeks or months it takes for their cases to wind through backlogged immigration courts, face dangerous and possibly deadly conditions.
Migrants who claim fear of returning to Mexico can ask to stay in the United States for the duration of their court case. But just 1% of cases have been transferred out of the programme, according to a Reuters analysis of federal immigration court data as of early October.
A report released https://www.merkley.senate.gov/imo/media/doc/SHATTERED%20REFUGE%20-%20A%20US%20Senate%20Investigation%20into%20the%20Trump%20Administration%27s%20Gutting%20of%20Asylum.pdf by the office of Democratic US Senator Jeff Merkley on Thursday criticised the MPP programme and the Trump administration's handling of a migrant surge earlier this year.
The report, citing interviews with US Citizenship and Immigration Services employees, said political supervisors at the agency intervened to override asylum officer decisions to remove migrants from the MPP programme.
An agency spokeswoman called the allegation "completely false" and said political appointees do not conduct reviews of such decisions.
Border Patrol arrested 35,444 people in October, the fifth consecutive monthly decline this year, according to a CBP official. The administration has said the MPP programme and other measures have helped lead to a decline in border arrests."