US, Mexico negotiate options for handling migrant caravan

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Washington, Oct 25 (IANS) US and Mexican officials are trying to negotiate about how to handle a massive caravan of migrants should it reach the American border, according to a Department of Homeland Security (DHS) official.

The officials were weighing the legality of certain steps President Donald Trump’s administration could take and looking at whether any processes could be changed to speed up the removal of migrants who have no legal basis to remain in the US, CNN quoted the DHS official as saying on Wednesday.

He said the administration hasn’t made any “firm decisions” about how to respond if the caravan reaches the border.

Among the topics being discussed with Mexico is whether migrants from the caravan could be held there before entering an official port of entry, the DHS official said.

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This process however, has been sharply criticised by advocates, who accuse officials of illegally trying to block immigrants from claiming asylum.

The US was also negotiating with Mexico about whether migrants from the caravan could be deported there, regardless of their country of origin.

This process, known as “return to territory”, which was included in Trump’s January 2017 executive order on border security, isn’t currently carried out by Immigration and Customs Enforcement, because Mexico would need to agree to take foreign nationals back.

“A lot of these (options) depend on cooperation and discussions with Mexico,” the official said.

There were 401 claims for asylum from the caravan that made its way to the US last spring, with 374 of those receiving “credible fear referrals”, which is the initial screening to ensure a claim could have merit, according to Citizenship and Immigration Services data.

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