March 20 (Reuters) - The United States is adding the border city of El Paso to the tally of locations from where it will return Central American asylum seekers to Mexico to wait out their application process, expanding a new policy criticized for putting migrants at risk.
The program in El Paso, just north of Mexico's Ciudad Juarez, was rolled out on Tuesday, the Department of Homeland Security said, adding that officials were expected to turn back the first group of Central American asylum seekers who arrived in El Paso to Mexico next week.
The policy, known as Migration Protection Protocols, or MPP, was so far only in force in San Ysidro, where hearings began on Tuesday.
The Mexican government said last week the U.S. would also send migrants back from Calexico, without specifying the start date.
The program is part of the measures by U.S. President Donald Trump's administration to curb the flow of mostly Central American migrants trying to enter the United States.
Critics say it violates U.S. law and international norms because migrants are sent back to often dangerous towns in Mexico where it is difficult to keep track of their U.S. court dates and to find legal help.
Ciudad Juarez, which saw a February surge of migrants, is among Mexico's northern border cities that suffered extensive bloodshed and disappearances since the federal government began using the military against drug cartels more than a decade ago. (Reporting by Mica Rosenberg in New York and Julio-Cesar Chavez in El Paso; Writing by Daina Beth Solomon; Editing by Clarence Fernandez)
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