In response to the coronavirus pandemic, U.S. Border Patrol agents have received orders to turn away illegal immigrants attempting to cross into the United States from Mexico, according to a leaked memo obtained by ProPublica.
“The Trump administration’s new rule and CDC order do not trump U.S. laws passed by Congress and U.S. legal obligations under refugee and human rights treaties,” Eleanor Acer, of the legal advocacy group Human Rights First, told ProPublica. “But the Trump administration is wielding them as the ultimate tool to shut the border to people seeking refuge.”
Two weeks ago, the Trump administration hastily put in place a policy, which the internal guidance calls Operation Capio, to push the overwhelming majority of unauthorized migrants into Mexico within hours of their apprehension in the U.S.
Pro-immigration groups say that under U.S. immigration law, anyone from another country who fears persecution or torture in their home country should be allowed legal asylum in the United States.
So far, Customs and Border Protection officials say roughly 7,000 people have been turned away since the rule was put in place.
To help with enforcement efforts, the military recently announced it was sending 540 more troops to the border.