Trump’s move to refuse asylum challenged in court
>> WASHINGTON: President Donald Trump’s proclamation to deny asylum to migrants who enter the country illegally was immediately challenged in court.
Mr Trump invoked the same powers he used last year to impose a travel ban that was upheld by the Supreme Court. The new regulations are intended to circumvent laws stating that anyone is eligible for asylum no matter how he or she enters the country. About 70,000 people per year who enter the country illegally claim asylum, officials said.
“We need people in our country, but they have to come in legally,’’ Mr Trump said on Friday as he departed for Paris.
The American Civil Liberties Union (ACLU) and other legal groups swiftly sued in federal court in Northern California to block the regulations, arguing the measures were illegal.
“The president is simply trying to run roughshod over Congress’s decision to provide asylum to those in danger regardless of the manner of one’s entry,’’ said ACLU attorney Lee Gelernt.
The litigation also seeks to put the new rules on hold while the case progresses.
The regulations went into effect yesterday. They would be in place for at least three months but could be extended, and don’t affect people already in the country. The Justice Department said in a statement the regulations were lawful.
Mr Trump’s announcement was the latest push to enforce a hard-line stance on immigration through regulatory changes and presidential orders, bypassing Congress, which has not passed any immigration law reform. But those efforts have been largely thwarted by legal challenges and, in the case of family separations this year, stymied by a global outcry that prompted Mr Trump to retreat.
Officials said changes to the asylum law are meant to funnel migrants through official border crossings for speedy rulings instead of having them try to circumvent such crossings on the nearly 3,200 kilometre long border. The US Border Patrol says it apprehended more than 50,000 people crossing illegally in October, setting a new high this year, though illegal crossings are well below historical highs from previous decades.
But the busy ports of entry already have long lines and waits, forcing immigration officials to tell some migrants to turn around and come back to make their claims. Backlogs have become especially bad in recent months at crossings in California, Arizona and Texas, with some people waiting five weeks to try to claim asylum at San Diego’s main crossing.
“The arrival of large numbers ... will contribute to the overloading of our immigration and asylum system and to the release of thousands ... into the interior of the United States,’’ Mr Trump said in the proclamation, calling it a crisis.
Administration officials said those denied asylum under the proclamation may be eligible for similar forms of protection if they fear returning to their countries, though they would be subject to a tougher threshold. Those forms of protection include “withholding of removal’’ — which is similar to asylum, but doesn’t allow for green cards or bringing families — or protection under the United Nations Convention Against Torture.
Homeland Security officials said they were adding staffing at the border crossings to manage the expected crush, but it’s not clear how migrants, specifically families, would be held as their cases are adjudicated. Family detention centres are largely at capacity. Mr Trump has said he wanted to erect “tent cities’’, but nothing has been funded.
The US is also working with Mexico in an effort to send some migrants back across the border. Right now, laws allow only Mexican nationals to be swiftly returned and increasingly those claiming asylum are from Central America.
HOPES DASHED: People seeking asylum in the United States are seen through fence at the San Ysidro Port of Entry on Friday.