U.S. im­mi­gra­tion of­fi­cials move to re­strict asy­lum at bor­der

The Maui News - - TODAY’S PEOPLE - By COLLEEN LONG The As­so­ci­ated Press

WASH­ING­TON — The Trump ad­min­is­tra­tion said Thurs­day it will deny asy­lum to mi­grants who en­ter the coun­try il­le­gally, in­vok­ing ex­tra­or­di­nary pres­i­den­tial na­tional se­cu­rity pow­ers to tighten the bor­der as car­a­vans of Cen­tral Amer­i­cans slowly ap­proach the United States.

The mea­sures are meant to fun­nel asy­lum seek­ers through of­fi­cial bor­der cross­ings for speedy rul­ings, of­fi­cials said, in­stead of hav­ing them try to cir­cum­vent such cross­ings on the nearly 2,000-mile bor­der. But the busy ports of en­try al­ready have long lines and waits, forc­ing im­mi­gra­tion of­fi­cials to tell some mi­grants to come back to make their claims.

The move was spurred in part by car­a­vans of Cen­tral Amer­i­can mi­grants slowly mov­ing north on foot, but will ap­ply to any­one caught cross­ing il­le­gally, of­fi­cials said. It’s un­known whether those in the car­a­van, many flee­ing vi­o­lence in their home­land, plan to cross il­le­gally.

The reg­u­la­tions will be in­cor­po­rated in a procla­ma­tion ex­pected to be is­sued to­day by Pres­i­dent Don­ald Trump. He will in­voke the same pow­ers he used to push through a ver­sion of the travel ban that was up­held by the Supreme Court, ac­cord­ing to se­nior ad­min­is­tra­tion of­fi­cials. The of­fi­cials were not au­tho­rized to speak pub­licly and spoke to The As­so­ci­ated Press on con­di­tion of anonymity. The reg­u­la­tions would cir­cum­vent laws stat­ing that any­one is el­i­gi­ble for asy­lum no mat­ter how he or she en­ters the coun­try,

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 asy­lum un­der the United Na­tions Con­ven­tion Against Torture.

The an­nounce­ment was the lat­est push to en­force Trump’s hard-line stance on im­mi­gra­tion through reg­u­la­tory changes and pres­i­den­tial or­ders, by­pass­ing Con­gress. 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 Trump to scrap them.

The new changes were likely to be met with le­gal chal­lenges, too. Omar Jad­wat, di­rec­tor of the Amer­i­can Civil Lib­er­ties Union’s Im­mi­grants’ Rights Project, said they were clearly il­le­gal.

“U.S. 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,” he said.

Curb­ing im­mi­gra­tion has been a sig­na­ture is­sue for Trump, who pushed it hard in the days lead­ing up to Tues­day’s midterm elec­tions, rail­ing against the car­a­vans that are still hun­dreds of miles from the bor­der.

He has made lit­tle men­tion of the is­sue since the elec­tion but has sent troops to the bor­der in re­sponse. As of Thurs­day, there are more than 5,600 U.S. troops de­ployed to the bor­der mis­sion, with about 550 ac­tu­ally work­ing on the bor­der in Texas. The mil­i­tary is ex­pected to have the vast ma­jor­ity of the more than 7,000 troops planned for the mis­sion de­ployed by Mon­day, and that num­ber could grow.

Trump also sug­gested he’d re­voke the right to cit­i­zen­ship for ba­bies born to non-U.S. cit­i­zens on Amer­i­can soil and erect mas­sive “tent cities” to de­tain mi­grants. Those is­sues were not ad­dressed by the reg­u­la­tions Thurs­day.

The ad­min­is­tra­tion has long said im­mi­gra­tion of­fi­cials are drown­ing in asy­lum cases partly be­cause peo­ple falsely claim asy­lum and then live in the U.S. with work per­mits.

The asy­lum sec­tion of the Im­mi­gra­tion and Na­tion­al­ity Act says a mi­grant is al­lowed to make a claim up to a year af­ter ar­riv­ing in the U.S., and it doesn’t mat­ter how they ar­rive — il­le­gally or through a bor­der cross­ing.

Mi­grants who cross il­le­gally are gen­er­ally ar­rested and of­ten seek asy­lum or some other form of pro­tec­tion. Claims have spiked in re­cent years, and there is a back­log of more than 800,000 cases pend­ing in im­mi­gra­tion court. Gen­er­ally, only about 20 per­cent of ap­pli­cants are ap­proved.

Trump has long said those seek­ing asy­lum should come through le­gal ports of en­try. But many mi­grants are un­aware of that guid­ance, and of­fi­cial bor­der cross­ings have grown clogged.

Of­fi­cials have turned away asy­lum seek­ers at bor­der cross­ings be­cause of over­crowd­ing, telling them to re­turn later. 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.

In 2017, the U.S. fielded more than 330,000 asy­lum claims, nearly dou­ble the num­ber two years ear­lier and sur­pass­ing Ger­many as high­est in the world.

It’s un­clear how many peo­ple en route to the U.S. will even make it to the bor­der. About 4,800 mi­grants are shel­tered in a sports com­plex in Mex­ico City, some 600 miles from the U.S. bor­der. Sev­eral smaller groups were trail­ing hun­dreds of miles to the south; of­fi­cials es­ti­mated about 7,000 in all were in the coun­try in the car­a­vans. The mi­grants are largely poor peo­ple and many say they’re flee­ing vi­o­lence; more than 1,700 were chil­dren un­der 18, and more than 300 were chil­dren un­der age 5.

Sim­i­lar car­a­vans have gath­ered reg­u­larly over the years and have gen­er­ally dwin­dled by the time they reach the south­ern bor­der. Most have passed largely un­no­ticed.

AP photo

A group of Cen­tral Amer­i­can mi­grants, rep­re­sent­ing thou­sands par­tic­i­pat­ing in a car­a­van try­ing to reach the U.S. bor­der, un­der­take an hours-long march to the of­fice of the United Na­tions’ hu­mans right body in Mex­ico City on Thurs­day.

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