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U.S. has begun sending Brazilian migrants to Mexico to await U.S. court hearings

FILE PHOTO: U.S. soldiers install concertina wire next to the border fence between Mexico and the United States, in El Paso, Texas, U.S., in this picture taken from Ciudad Juarez, Mexico, April 4, 2019. REUTERS/Jose Luis Gonzalez/File Photo

WASHINGTON (Reuters) - The United States has begun sending Brazilian migrants crossing the border from Mexico back there to await their U.S. court hearings, the U.S. Department of Homeland Security (DHS) said on Wednesday.

Brazilians will be sent to Mexico under a programme known as the Migrant Protection Protocols (MPP). More than 57,000 non-Mexican migrants have been returned to Mexico under that effort since it launched a year ago, according to the DHS.

The programme is one of several moves by the administration of U.S. President Donald Trump to limit access to asylum at the U.S.-Mexico border. Trump faces re-election in November and has made immigration a focus of his 2020 campaign.

The DHS cited a rising number of Brazilians arrested at the border in its announcement on Wednesday.

U.S. Border Patrol caught roughly 17,900 Brazilians at the southwest border in the last fiscal year, which began Oct. 1, 2018. The figure was a sharp increase from 1,500 arrests a year earlier.

Reuters first reported earlier this month that the Trump administration had weighed the inclusion of Brazilians in the MPP programme.

The programme previously had covered Spanish-speaking migrants. But the addition of people from Brazil, where Portuguese is the official language, expands its reach further.

Rogelio Pinal, the head of the human rights office in Juarez, Mexico, said that Brazilians who cross the border in El Paso, Texas, and are sent to wait in Juarez will be taken to a federally run migrant shelter and provided with an interpreter.

The DHS said in its announcement that U.S. federal law did not limit the scope of the programme to any one nationality or language.

Reporting by Ted Hesson and Julio-César Chávez; Editing by Sandra Maler and Lisa Shumaker