U.S. Will Send Migrants Back to Mexico as They Wait on Asylum Claims

CANCÚN, Mexico — The United States government will begin returning individuals seeking asylum back to Mexico while they await an outcome on their cases — a move that the Mexican government says it will accept, according to officials from both countries.

The American secretary of homeland security, Kirstjen M. Nielsen, said the move would prevent people from using the asylum process as a way of slipping into the United States and remaining there illegally.

“Today we are announcing historic measures to bring the illegal immigration crisis under control,” she said. “Aliens trying to game the system to get into our country illegally will no longer be able to disappear into the United States, where many skip their court dates.”

Mexican officials say they were told of the American decision on Thursday morning in letters from the Department of Homeland Security and the United States chargé d’affaires in Mexico, John S. Creamer. The letters stated that the returns would begin immediately under a section of the Immigration and Nationality Act.

The Mexican foreign ministry has essentially agreed to accept the decision by the United States, and will be forced to house thousands of people from other countries, particularly from Central America, as they await their asylum decisions.

A spokesman for the foreign ministry, Roberto Velasquez, said the move did not represent an agreement between the two countries, but rather “a unilateral move by the United States that we have to respond to.”

The decision to accept the asylum seekers is likely to be seen as a capitulation by the Mexican government to President Trump, who proclaimed over Twitter two weeks ago that Mexico would house asylum applicants to the United States on its soil.

Given the public enmity between Mr. Trump and his Mexican counterparts, the decision to turn Mexico into a waiting room for migrants seeking entry to the United States is likely to stir anger in Mexico.