US to deny asy­lum to ‘il­le­gal’ im­mi­grants

The Weekend Australian - - WORLD -

The US will no longer al­low peo­ple who en­ter the coun­try il­le­gally to claim asy­lum, of­fi­cials said yes­ter­day, un­veil­ing a new crack­down on im­mi­gra­tion.

The restric­tion on asy­lum claims will seek to ad­dress what a se­nior Trump ad­min­is­tra­tion of­fi­cial called the “his­tor­i­cally un­par­al­leled abuse of our im­mi­gra­tion sys­tem” along the bor­der with Mex­ico.

The new rule was pub­lished by the Depart­ment of Home­land Se­cu­rity and is ex­pected to get Don­ald Trump’s sig­na­ture shortly — as well as face court chal­lenges.

The Amer­i­can Civil Lib­er­ties Union said that the right to re­quest asy­lum must be granted to any­one en­ter­ing the coun­try, re­gard­less of where they were. “US law specif­i­cally al­lows in­di­vid­u­als to ap­ply for asy­lum whether or not they are at a port of en­try. It is il­le­gal to cir­cum­vent that by agency or pres­i­den­tial de­cree,” the ACLU said.

But ac­cord­ing to the new rule, Mr Trump has au­thor­ity to re­strict il­le­gal im­mi­gra­tion “if he de­ter­mines it to be in the na­tional in­ter­est”. The ad­min­is­tra­tion ar­gues that he has the ex­ec­u­tive power to curb im­mi­gra­tion in the name of na­tional se­cu­rity, a power he in­voked af­ter tak­ing of­fice with a ban on trav­ellers from sev­eral mostly Mus­lim coun­tries — the fi­nal ver­sion of which was up­held by the US Supreme Court on June 26 af­ter a pro­tracted le­gal bat­tle.

“To­day’s rule ap­plies this im­por­tant prin­ci­ple to aliens who vi- olate such a sus­pen­sion or restric­tion re­gard­ing the south­ern bor­der,” Home­land Se­cu­rity Sec­re­tary Kirst­jen Nielsen and act­ing at­tor­ney-gen­eral Matthew Whi­taker said.

Those seek­ing asy­lum — nearly all of them com­ing from im­pov­er­ished and crime-plagued coun­tries of Cen­tral Amer­ica — would be heard ex­clu­sively at the bor­der cross­ings, of­fi­cials said.

This was ex­pected to put a dent in those stream­ing into an al­ready over­bur­dened sys­tem, of­fi­cials said, not­ing that there was a back­log of more than 700,000 cases in the im­mi­gra­tion courts.

Many politi­cians on both sides of the aisle agree that the im­mi­gra­tion sys­tem is hugely in­ef­fi­cient and un­able to cope with de­mand. How­ever, Mr Trump’s fo­cus on the is­sue dur­ing cam­paign­ing for this week’s mid-term elec­tions was crit­i­cised as veer­ing into im­mi­grant-bash­ing and even racism.

In speeches and on Twit­ter, Mr Trump ham­mered away nearly daily at “car­a­vans” of a few thou­sand im­pov­er­ished Cen­tral Amer­i­cans that pe­ri­od­i­cally at­tempt to walk up through Mex­ico and then gain en­try to the US.

He called a cur­rent car­a­van, which is still hun­dreds of kilo­me­tres from the US bor­der and dwin­dling in num­bers, an “in­va­sion” and said it would bring hard­ened crim­i­nals to US streets.

Ad­min­is­tra­tion of­fi­cials say that aside from the rhetoric, the bor­der re­ally does have a prob­lem, given that any­one who man­ages to get across can re­quest asy­lum and sub­se­quently of­ten van­ish while their case sits in the court sys­tem.

“The vast ma­jor­ity of th­ese ap­pli­ca­tions even­tu­ally turn out to be non-mer­i­to­ri­ous,” a se­nior ad­min­is­tra­tion of­fi­cial said.

Less than 10 per cent of cases re­sult in asy­lum be­ing granted, the gov­ern­ment says.

Hu­man rights cam­paign­ers and other crit­ics of the Trump crack­down say that by restrict­ing asy­lum-seek­ers to the nar­row bor­der cross­ing points — which are al­ready un­der enor­mous pres­sure — the gov­ern­ment is ef­fec­tively shut­ting the door on peo­ple who may truly be flee­ing for their lives.

“The gov­ern­ment can­not ab­di­cate its re­spon­si­bil­ity to­wards mi­grants flee­ing harm,” the New York Im­mi­gra­tion Coali­tion said. “We will re­sist this.”

But the ad­min­is­tra­tion of­fi­cial ar­gued that “what we’re at­tempt­ing to do is try­ing to fun­nel cred­i­ble fear claims, or asy­lum claims, through the ports of en­try where we are bet­ter re­sourced”. That way, he said, courts would “han­dle those claims in an ex­pe­di­tious and ef­fi­cient man­ner, so that those who do ac­tu­ally re­quire an asy­lum pro­tec­tion get those pro­tec­tions”.

This year, bor­der pa­trols have reg­is­tered more than 400,000 il­le­gal bor­der crossers. And in the past five years, the num­ber of those re­quest­ing asy­lum has in­creased by 2000 per cent.

AP

Car­a­van mem­ber Eys­son Yo­vani Enamoradom, 3, flanked his mother Yesmin Her­rera and cousin Deric Reyes by

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