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An asylum seeker from Honduras was forced to return to Mexico from the United States on Tuesday. (Photo: Guillermo Arias/Agence France-Presse/Getty Images)

Trump's 'Illegal Return of Asylum Seekers Scheme' Has First Known Victim

"This is literally sentencing people to die."

Jessica Corbett

In the first publicly known instance of the Trump administration implementing its new policy that forces some asylum seekers to await their U.S. immigration court hearings in Mexico, 55-year-old Carlos Gomez Perdomo of Honduras was sent to the United States' southern neighbor on Tuesday—sparking a fresh wave of condemnation.

Critics of the policy point out that it could further endanger asylum seekers. As Melissa Crow of the Southern Poverty Law Center told Agence France-Presse: "It's not safe for many, if not most, of these asylum seekers to wait in Mexico. Lots of them are fleeing cartel violence and domestic abusers."

"There are examples of people being pursued by their persecutors while waiting in Mexico," Crow noted. "It's a horribly bad idea to implement this plan."

"We have worked with people who are under active threat here in Mexico, who have had to move between shelters and stay in secret locations because they are being actively pursued throughout Mexico, and throughout Tijuana," Nicole Ramos, an attorney with the Tijuana-based legal aid office Al Otro Lado told the Washington Post. "This is literally sentencing people to die."

President Donald Trump's administration, however, has ignored such warnings and forged ahead with what New York Immigration Coalition executive director Steven Choi described as just another part of a "systematic, deliberate effort to undermine the safety of thousands of asylum seekers and dismantle our refugee system."

Using the U.S. Department of Homeland Security's name for the plan—initially called the "Remain in Mexico" policy—the U.S. embassy in Mexico City confirmed in a statement that "the United States has begun implementing the Migrant Protection Protocols."

As immigrant rights advocates challenge the legality of the policy, some have said that calling it the "Illegal Return of Asylum Seekers Scheme" would be more accurate.

The asylum "waiting" policy, announced last month, comes from an administration that has also forcibly separated thousands of migrant children from their parents, prompted the longest ever government shutdown in pursuit of billions of dollars in funding for a wall along the U.S.-Mexico border, and threatened to declare a national emergency to build the wall.

As the Trump administration continues to enact racist policies aimed at detering asylum seekers from entering the United States, Gomez Perdomo, who traveled as part of a caravan from Honduras that arrived in November, told the Post he was shocked to be sent back to Mexico.

"I said to myself, 'I don't know what's happening, and I don't know what will happen in this case,'" he said. "After I have spent so much time battling, all the time I've spent outside my country, to come to this place with a goal and to lose. I have not advanced at all. Instead I seem to have gone backward."

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