Trump to bar asylum for migrants entering US illegally
The Trump administration introduced new measures Thursday to deny asylum to migrants who enter the country illegally, invoking national security powers to curb long-standing humanitarian protections for foreigners arriving on American soil.
The restrictions will invoke authorities used by President Donald Trump to implement his “travel ban” in early 2017, according to senior administration officials who outlined them, and apply indefinitely.
The measures are expected to face swift legal challenges. Immigrant advocacy groups insist that U.S. laws clearly extend asylum protections to anyone who reaches the United States and expresses a fear of persecution, no matter how they enter the country.
Trump is preparing to issue a proclamation asserting the emergency powers, and the rule changes will be published Friday in the Federal Register, according to the officials, who spoke with the media in a conference call on the condition of anonymity. They did not explain why they could not be identified.
These asylum restrictions mark the administration’s latest attempt to prevent immigrants and foreigners from entering the United States. Thursday’s announcement comes as an estimated 7,000 to 10,000 Central Americans move north through Mexico in caravan groups. Trump has demanded new tools to stop them from entering the United States and ordered the deployment of thousands of the U.S. troops to back up border agents.
“Our nation is experiencing an unprecedented crisis on our Southern Border,” the Department of Homeland Security said in a statement. “Low standards for claiming a fear of persecution have allowed aliens with meritless claims to illegally enter our country, claim “credible fear,” and then in many cases be released pending lengthy proceedings.”
Under U.S. immigration laws, foreigners who arrive on American soil stating a fear of return can request asylum as a shield against deportation. A
U.S. asylum officer then conducts an interview to determine if the person has a “credible fear” of persecution, in which case the applicant is typically assigned a court date and released from custody.
Soaring numbers of migrants have entered the United States taking this administrative path in recent years, often crossing illegally to turn themselves in to U.S. border agents. Since 2014, asylum claims at the border have increased fourfold, adding to a backlog of more than 750,000 pending cases in U.S. immigration courts.
Under the changes, migrants who cross illegally would be ineligible for asylum, but they could still be spared from deportation by qualifying for a lesser status known as “withholding of removal.”
Qualifying for withholding of removal is generally more difficult, because applicants have to meet a higher standard of proof.
Migrants from Central America make their way to the town of Tapanetepec, in the southwestern state of Oaxaca, Mexico, last month.