Acting Department of Homeland Security Secretary Chad Wolf visited the southern border near El Paso, Texas, and lauded the Trump administration’s “Remain in Mexico” program Wednesday.
Wolf, who became DHS chief earlier in November, visited the U.S.-Mexico border Wednesday for the first time since he began leading the department. He toured the Paso del Norte Processing Center during the trip and met with Gloria Chavez, the interim Border Patrol chief of the El Paso sector, the El Paso Times reported.
He responded to a question during a press conference about the Trump administration’s Migrant Protection Protocols (MPP) program, also referred to as “Remain in Mexico,” and said what he thought about some Democratic calls to defund it.
“I would say defunding MPP would be a critical mistake. It’s one of our most successful initiatives,” Wolf said. “Again, as I walk around and talk to the great men and women of Border Patrol and [Office of Field Operations] and others here — again, it’s critical to what they do each and every day to make sure that we can both control the flow, end catch and release.”
“More importantly, it allows us to provide these individuals with an expedited … timeline for their immigration proceedings. … In MPP, we’re able to give them proceedings in a matter of months, what would normally take years to do,” he continued.
Migrant Protection Protocols, first launched by the Trump administration in January, requires asylum seekers who crossed through Mexico to reach the U.S. border to wait in Mexico while their claims are processed through the American immigration court system — a process that could take months. The initiative, which applies mostly to the Central American migrants crossing through Mexico, is designed to mitigate asylum fraud.
Previously, when many Central American migrants reached the southern border and lodged an asylum claim, they would be released into the interior of the country with the understanding that they appear before a court at a later date — many never show up, and most asylum claims are deemed illegitimate. By requiring migrants wait in Mexico, the Trump administration argues, the incentive to lodge a bogus asylum claim is undercut.
The program has grown rapidly in the past year, expanding to numerous ports of entry along the U.S.-Mexico border. The administration has sent more than 55,000 foreign nationals back to Mexico in the past nine months or so.
However, the program has been met with extreme pushback by Democratic lawmakers. The House Homeland Security Committee held a hearing Tuesday that consisted of most Democratic lawmakers blasting the program and framing it as cruel for those who are forced to live in a dangerous country. (RELATED: Julian Castro Says He Would Use Executive Order To End ‘Remain In Mexico’ Policy Immediately)
Wolf responded Wednesday to calls by Texas Democratic Rep. Veronica Escobar to defund Migrant Protection Protocols.
“The fact that the Trump administration considers successful a policy that deprives asylum seekers of due process, creates a new ecosystem of criminal activity in Juarez, and endangers lives, speaks volumes about its cruelty, incompetence, and complete disregard for our immigration laws,” Escobar said, according to the El Paso Times.
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