The Trump administration is prepared to open a tent courtroom on the boundary to help manage tens of thousands of cases of asylum seekers forced to wait Mexico, with hearings held entirely by videoconference.
The court, or “soft-sided” centre as U.S. officials call it, is scheduled to start operations Monday in Laredo, Texas. Another is expected to open shortly in Brownsville in the Rio Grande Valley, the busiest corridor for illegal crossings.
The government introduced its”Stay in Mexico” coverage in San Diego in January and later expanded it to El Paso, but hearings you will find ran within large buildings with regular courtrooms, and the judge usually appears in person.
The coverage, assailed by critics for making families and young kids wait in violent Mexico border towns, has become a vital part of the U.S. reaction to a huge increase in asylum-seeking households, particularly from Central America.
Mexico allowed because of its rapid growth at a June 7 pact that spared it, at least briefly, from dangers of tariff increases by President Donald Trump.
Mexico’s Foreign Relations Secretary Marcelo Ebrard and U.S. Vice President Mike Pence agreed Tuesday to expand the coverage “to the fullest extent possible,” based on a summary of the meeting provided from the White House.
About 40,000 non-Mexican asylum seekers are forced to wait in Mexico while their cases wind through obstructed U.S. immigration courts, according to the Mexican authorities. The number soared following the June agreement between the U.S. and Mexico, and the coverage was expanded to Laredo and Brownsville.
The Laredo court will be the as 300 cases every day, said Alberto Flores, port manager for U.S. Customs and Border Protection, said during a tour for journalists on Tuesday which was streamed by author Brenda Camacho of KGNS-TV.
Asylum seekers are advised to report to Nuevo Laredo on the Mexico side of the border at least four hours prior to their court occasions, Flores said during a press tour of the 30,000-square foot (2,787-square-meter) centre.
Details of how the tent courts will function have been rare. Attorneys are still attempting to ascertain how much access they’ll have and if they’ll have the ability to meet privately with customers prior to a hearing — although journalists have been shown 14 rooms for attorney-client talks.
There are four courtrooms for first monitoring hearings, each one designed to chair 50 migrants at one time in rows of seats, with folding tables available should they have to approach the movie camera which feeds images to a judge, who will appear on a big screen from another town.
“Everything is going to be virtual,” Flores said.
For substantive hearings that address the merits of an asylum claim and typically last hours, you will find 18 little rooms in adjoining transport containers, each equipped with two chairs, dining table and display for the judge to look remotely.
There is a children’s waiting room with brightly colored, kid-sized seats and baby-changing tables near a place with portable toilets.
Migrants who fear persecution in Mexico, along with their home country, can make their case to an asylum officer who will interview them in an office in Houston.
A number of other migrants are waiting in Mexican border towns merely to make their initial claims for asylum in a U.S. border crossing. The Associated Press discovered about 19,000 names on waiting lists in four cities visited in late July.
The U.S. government doesn’t handle the lists, so there is no uniform method to prioritize asylum seekers who may be at a greater risk for extortion, persecution or medical issues. Attorneys along the border say lots of their clients are kidnapped, robbed, or sexually assaulted while they waited for their court date.
Mexico’s immigration crackdown, including sending thousands of troops into its own borders, has led to a sharp drop in illegal crossings. U.S. Border Patrol arrests across the Mexico border in August dropped to their lowest level since January, even though they are still relatively large.
Pence emphasized the “Remain in Mexico” policy, called “Migrant Protection Protocols” by U.S. officials, during his meeting Tuesday with Mexico’s top diplomat in the White House. He praised Mexico’s “meaningful and unprecedented steps to help curb the flow of illegal immigration.”
“The leaders agreed that while progress has been made, more work remains in order to further reduce the flow of illegal migrants to the United States,” according to the White House summary of this meeting.
Associated Press writer Elliot Spagat in San Diego contributed to this report.