The Trump administration has expanded its efforts to deter illegal immigration by starting to return Mexican migrants deeper into the country instead of releasing them at the border.
In December, the Department of Homeland Security started running flights from Tucson, Arizona, to Guadalajara, Fox News reported.
DHS plans to run two flights returning 250 migrants a week starting at the end of January.
According to anonymous officials quoted by Fox News, all of the migrants being flown to the interior of Mexico are Mexican nationals from non-border states and either recently illegally entered the U.S. or were ruled deportable by an immigration judge.
This new plan was put into action in an attempt to make it harder for repeat offenders to try crossing the border illegally again. Officials say releasing migrants closer to their hometowns makes it easier for them to quickly receive aid from the Mexican government.
The Mexican government requested this move to help with the border crisis, according to the unnamed officials.
“This is another example of the Trump Administration working with the Government of Mexico to address the ongoing border security crisis,” DHS spokeswoman Heather Swift told Fox News.
“Mexico has been a great partner in stopping illegal migration before they reach our border and in standing up the Migrant Protection Protocol, which has allowed us to provide court dates to more than 55,000 individuals.”
The migrants who will be flown to the center of Mexico are not part of the Migrant Protection Protocols.
MPP or the “Remain-in-Mexico” policy ended the “catch-and-release” policy and migrants are now returned to Mexico to wait for their immigration hearings.
Met with opposition from human rights activists, the MPP policy is currently facing a legal challenge at the Ninth Circuit Court of Appeals.
The Trump administration has also reached an agreement with Guatemala to send asylum-seekers to Guatemala to apply for asylum there, Reuters reported.
Opponents of this agreement say that asylum seekers will face greater danger in Guatemala where 2017 data compiled by the World Bank shows the murder rate is five times higher than in the U.S.
The agreement only applies to migrants from Honduras, El Salvador and Mexico, but exceptions are made for migrants who can prove they are “more likely than not” to be persecuted in Guatemala.
The Mexican government released a statement in opposition to the Guatemala agreement.
“The Government of Mexico, together with authorities at the state and local level, will work to offer better options to Mexicans who may be affected by this provision,” the statement read.
“Likewise, the Ministry of Foreign Affairs will promptly monitor the fulfillment of the human rights contemplated in the international agreements signed and ratified by both Mexico and the United States.”