Top Trump administration officials held a secret meeting in Miami with El Salvador’s President Nayib Bukele to finalize a plan to send asylum seekers, including those from Mexico, to the Central American country, reports BuzzFeed News. U.S. officials were confident after the meeting, which included acting Department of Homeland Security Secretary Chad Wolf, that El Salvador would take more than 2,000 immigrants who cross the southern border without authorization this year, and that the returns could start by the end of March. In December, Bukele told CBS’s “60 Minutes” that El Salvador was not ready for asylum-seekers from other countries.
A DHS spokesperson, who denied it was a “secret meeting,” said “We are ending abuse of our asylum system and deterring illegal immigration, while also giving legitimate asylum-seekers opportunities to seek protection in their home region.” The meeting with Bukele came amid the Trump administration’s broader efforts to restrict asylum at the southern border and as the Supreme Court deliberates over a policy that forces asylum-seekers to remain in Mexico for the duration of their US immigration cases. The “Remain in Mexico” policy, a pillar of the Trump administration’s approach to deterring asylum-seekers, has led to upward of 60,000 people being returned to Mexico. An order from the U.S. Court of Appeals for the Ninth Circuit will block the Remain in Mexico policy — formally called Migration Protection Protocols — on Thursday, unless the Supreme Court steps in. DHS officials have asked the high court stay the 9th Circuit’s order.