According to AP, dozens of Central Americans who had been returned to the border city of Juarez to await the outcome of their U.S. asylum claims were being bused back to their countries Tuesday by Mexican authorities, a first for that size group in the program commonly known as “remain in Mexico.”
In a statement, the Foreign Relations Department described it as the beginning of a “temporary program of voluntary return” for migrants in northern Mexico who wish to go home. It said 69 people — 40 Hondurans, 22 Guatemalans and seven Salvadorans — were involved, and 66 of those were returnees under the U.S. program.
Carrying their belongings in plastic bags, adults and children lined up to board the bus in the morning. One woman cradled her daughter on her lap and gazed out the window as they prepared to depart.
Officials said the bus left Ciudad Juarez at 9 a.m. and that all aboard wanted to be repatriated to their native countries in Central America’s Northern Triangle, the source of a surge of migration in recent months, many of them families with children. It’s at least a day and a half journey overland from the city to Mexico’s southern border.
Transportation and assistance were coordinated by the International Organization for Migration, the Foreign Relations Department, Mexico’s National Immigration Institute and two non-governmental groups.
The Immigration Institute said the program would soon be rolled out in Tijuana and Mexicali as well, two other cities that have been taking in returnees from the United States under the program that began in January. The institute added that the 69 had normalized migratory status in Mexico.
It was not clear what impact there could be on the asylum-seekers’ cases in the United States, whether going home meant giving up their claims or whether it would be possible to continue from Central America. Asylum-seekers returned to Mexico are supposed to cross the border for U.S. court dates, and then go back to Mexico.
“Legally this is all new territory, so it’s hard to know,” said Andrew Selee, president of the Migration Policy Institute.