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Internal Email Reveals How Officers Are Addressing The Rise Of Mexican Asylum Seekers 

REUTERS/Jose de Jesus Cortes

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Jason Hopkins Immigration and politics reporter
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  • The chief of the USCIS asylum division, Andrew Davidson, instructed officers on the proper rules concerning Mexican asylum applicants. 
  • Mexican nationals must attempt to relocate within their own country before seeking protected status in the U.S., or else be subject to getting their claim denied. 
  • The guidance comes as Mexicans make up a majority of those seeking asylum along the U.S. southern border, surpassing Central Americans. 

As Mexican nationals make up an increasingly larger share of migrants seeking protected status in the U.S., asylum officers have been reminded of the laws and regulations that dictate legitimate asylum claims.

Andrew Davidson, the chief asylum official within U.S. Citizenship and Immigration Services, recently sent an email to asylum officers regarding the provisions surrounding legitimate asylum claims. The email, which was obtained by the Daily Caller News Foundation, particularly addresses claims made by Mexican asylum seekers — noting that Mexican applicants must prove that internal relocation in their country is not an option.

“Asylum officers must be cognizant that, depending on the nature of the applicant’s claim, the applicant may either carry the burden of proof or may be given a presumption that no reasonable internal relocation options are available,” Davidson wrote to officers. “With limited exceptions, where the applicant has failed to establish past persecution, the applicant bears the burden of establishing that it would not be reasonable to relocate.”

“Asylum officers should also apply the appropriate standard of proof when assessing each element of an applicant’s persecution claim,” the chief continued. “For example, applicants are eligible for asylum only if the applicant demonstrates a well-founded fear of persecution in the country of return (with limited exceptions). In the credible fear context, generally applicants from Mexico must present evidence that establishes a significant possibility that the applicant is eligible for asylum in the United States..”

Migrants, most of them asylum seekers sent back to Mexico from the U.S. under the "Remain in Mexico" program, officially named Migrant Protection Protocols (MPP), wait in line for a meal outside the Human Repatriation office in Matamoros

Migrants, most of them asylum seekers sent back to Mexico from the U.S. under the “Remain in Mexico” program, wait in line for a meal outside the Human Repatriation office in Matamoros, Tamaulipas, Mexico, October 27, 2019. REUTERS/Loren Elliott

The email comes as Mexican nationals now make up the majority of those seeking U.S. asylum along the southern border, surpassing Central Americans.

Mark Morgan, the acting commissioner of Customs and Border Protection, announced in November that, for the first time in 18 months, the majority of those apprehended by Border Patrol were Mexican nationals. The numbers of those officially seeking protected status in the U.S. were also reflective of these changes, with a study released by the University of Texas and the University of California San Diego that same month finding that a majority of the asylum seekers along the U.S.-Mexican border were now Mexican nationals.

While these changes are similar to historical trends of illegal immigration into the U.S., they present new challenges to immigration enforcement officials who have been working under recently enacted programs and policies geared toward the dramatic rate of Central American families that have descended upon the border under the Trump administration.

Remain in Mexico, for example, has proven wildly successful at keeping tens of thousands of asylum seekers in Mexico as they wait for the claims to be adjudicated in the immigration court system. However, this program is intended for Central Americans — not Mexicans.

The resurgence of Mexican nationals, U.S. officials argue, is due to human smugglers reorienting their business model in order to acclimate to the new immigration regulations.

Davidson ordered asylum officers to review a host of factors when determining whether a Mexican applicant is properly able to internally relocate before seeking protected status in the U.S. Such factors include: crime and safety among the different regions in the country, noting that some states in Mexico are safer than others; economic infrastructure, with stats that show that Gross Domestic Product, life expectancy, and secondary school enrollment climbing in Mexico; and research documents to assist officers in making asylum determinations.

“In sum, officers should be reminded that credible fear determinations, reasonable fear determinations, and affirmative asylum decisions are not legally sufficient if the record does not demonstrate that the officer has thoroughly assessed the internal relocation element of the claim, as required by regulations and guidance,” Davidson said. (RELATED: Critics Accused ICE Of Entrapping Students With A Fake University — But The Agency Is Releasing Undercover Footage)

“While safety and quality of life conditions vary between regions in Mexico, data demonstrates that there are many regions within Mexico that may be reasonable internal relocation options for Mexican nationals,” he went on.

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