By Vakkas Dogantekin
ANKARA (AA) - Brazilian asylum-seekers from the U.S. will remain in Mexico for the duration of their immigration cases, according to a report from BuzzFeed news.
Two sources with knowledge of the matter told the news outlet Wednesday about an expansion plan of the controversial immigration policy adopted by the Trump administration more than a year ago.
The proximity between the administrations of U.S. President Donald Trump and Brazilian President Jair Bolsonaro is going to be further tested in 2020 at a time when Brazilian nationals would join the more than 55,000 non-Mexican migrants who have been forced to wait in Mexico under the Migrant Protection Protocols.
Heather Swift, a spokesperson for the U.S. Department of Homeland Security, reportedly said officials "have nothing to announce at this time."
"DHS is always looking at ways to expand and strengthen the program to include new locations, populations, and procedures in order to further enhance protections for migrants and ensure safe and lawful migration," Swift added.
The Migrant Protection Protocol, also known as the Remain-in-Mexico policy, requires migrants from all countries south of the U.S. border to be returned to Mexico and wait for migration hearings.
Trump pursued a hardline approach to legal and illegal immigration since taking office.
As part of its anti-immigration policy, Washington also signed a safe third-country agreement with Guatemala, El Salvador, and Honduras.
The agreement forces Central American migrants to apply for asylum and be processed in a third country before seeking asylum in the U.S., even though under U.S. laws migrants are allowed to apply for asylum within the U.S. or at official ports of entry.
- To Huawei or not to Huawei, is that the question?
The Trump administration's punitive measures against Brazilian nationals came only weeks after Brazil announced plans to continue working with China in high-tech sectors, to Trump's dismay.
Marcos Pontes, Brazilian minister for science, technology, innovation and communications, in early January said Brazil would not veto any firm, referring mainly to China's 5G network provider Huawei, and a final decision would be reached on merit.
Brazil, with a population over 200 million, is deemed as one of the most crucial markets in defining the future of 5G in the developing world.
China is Brazil’s largest trading partner and pressure on Bolsonaro from agricultural companies in Brazil convinced the president that hostile policies against the Asian nation could jeopardize exports and future infrastructure investments.
Despite a turbulent domestic agenda, the Trump and Bolsonaro administrations thrive on their economic track record and neither side is willing to risk popularity.
Traditionally averse to taking sides, Brazil is now faced with hard choices.
While Bolsonaro and his senior advisers urge strengthening ties with the U.S., economic realities hit when it comes to foregoing China, which has been its most important trade partner in the past decade.