Trump claims ‘cri­sis,’ is­sues asy­lum edict

‘Mass mi­gra­tion’ a threat, he says; ACLU files law­suit


WASH­ING­TON — Pres­i­dent Don­ald Trump pro­claimed Fri­day that the il­le­gal en­try of peo­ple across the south­ern bor­der of the United States was detri­men­tal to the na­tional in­ter­est, trig­ger­ing changes that will deny asy­lum to all mi­grants who do not en­ter through of­fi­cial bor­der cross­ings.

The procla­ma­tion, is­sued just mo­ments be­fore Trump left the White House for a week­end trip to Paris, sus­pends asy­lum rights for peo­ple who try to cross into the United States il­le­gally, though of­fi­cials said it was aimed pri­mar­ily at sev­eral thou­sand mi­grants trav­el­ing north through Mex­ico in car­a­vans.

“The con­tin­u­ing and threat­ened mass mi­gra­tion of aliens with no ba­sis for ad­mis­sion into the United States through our south­ern bor­der has pre­cip­i­tated a cri­sis and un­der­mines the in­tegrity of our borders,” Trump wrote in the procla­ma­tion.

As he left the White House for the over­seas trip, Trump said, “We want peo­ple to come into our coun­try, but they have to come into the coun­try legally.”

The Amer­i­can Civil Lib­er­ties Union filed a law­suit Fri­day within hours of the pres­i­dent’s procla­ma­tion, urg­ing a fed­eral judge to pro­hibit Trump from mov­ing ahead with his plans to deny asy­lum to thou­sands who may cross the bor­der.

In a le­gal fil­ing in U.S. District Court in San Fran­cisco, the ACLU said the pres­i­dent’s move was “in di­rect vi­o­la­tion of Congress’ clear com­mand that man­ner of en­try can­not con­sti­tute a cat­e­gor­i­cal asy­lum bar.” The law­suit also al­leges that the ad­min­is­tra­tion en­acted the rule “with­out the re­quired pro­ce­dural steps and with­out good cause for im­me­di­ately putting the rule into ef­fect.”

The law­suit could set in mo­tion an­other clash be­tween Trump and the ju­di­cial sys­tem over the power of the pres­i­dency to con­trol the na­tion’s borders. Of­fi­cials at the Jus­tice De­part­ment and the De­part­ment of Home­land Se­cu­rity did not im­me­di­ately re­spond to ques­tions about the law­suit.

Ad­min­is­tra­tion of­fi­cials said Fri­day that the sus­pen­sion of asy­lum rights would be in ef­fect for at least 90 days, but could end sooner if Mex­ico’s gov­ern­ment would sign an agree­ment al­low­ing the United States to re­turn those who

il­le­gally cross the bor­der from Mex­ico, re­gard­less of their home coun­try — a pro­posal that Mex­ico has long rejected.

For decades, im­mi­gra­tion law in the United States has re­quired that of­fi­cials al­low peo­ple who fear per­se­cu­tion in their home coun­tries to seek asy­lum re­gard­less of whether they en­tered the United States legally or crossed il­le­gally.

Trump’s procla­ma­tion is a rad­i­cal de­par­ture from that tra­di­tion. With the ex­cep­tion of chil­dren ar­riv­ing with­out par­ents, of­fi­cials said, ev­ery­one cross­ing il­le­gally would au­to­mat­i­cally be de­nied asy­lum. Ad­vo­cates for mi­grants con­demned the pol­icy shift as mean-spir­ited and un­con­sti­tu­tional.

“Is­su­ing a pres­i­den­tial procla­ma­tion ef­fec­tively deny­ing vul­ner­a­ble fam­i­lies pro­tec­tion from vi­o­lence is con­trary to our laws and val­ues,” said Kevin Ap­pleby, a se­nior di­rec­tor at the Cen­ter for Mi­gra­tion Stud­ies. “In the long run, it will not de­ter asy­lum seek­ers who are flee­ing for their lives. On this one, the em­peror has no clothes.”

Of­fi­cials said the asy­lum-law changes are meant to fun­nel mi­grants through of­fi­cial bor­der cross­ings for speedy rul­ings in­stead of hav­ing them try to cir­cum­vent such cross­ings on the nearly 2,000-mile bor­der. The U.S. 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.

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.

Bor­der crossers are gen­er­ally ar­rested and of­ten seek asy­lum or some other form of pro­tec­tion. Claims have spiked in re­cent years and the im­mi­gra­tion court back­log has more than dou­bled to 1.1 mil­lion cases in about two years, Syra­cuse Univer­sity’s Trans­ac­tional Records Ac­cess Clear­ing­house re­ported this week. Gen­er­ally, only about 20 per­cent of ap­pli­cants are ap­proved.

Across the world, na­tions have for years agreed to con­sider asy­lum pro­tec­tions for those flee­ing vi­o­lence and per­se­cu­tion, even if they cross borders il­le­gally. Hu­man-rights ad­vo­cates said Fri­day that the United States should be a leader in sup­port­ing that idea.

“One thing that unites a ma­jor­ity of Amer­i­cans is a be­lief in the prin­ci­ple of asy­lum,” Ali Noorani, the ex­ec­u­tive di­rec­tor of the Na­tional Im­mi­gra­tion Fo­rum, said in a state­ment. “Erod­ing that prin­ci­ple means erod­ing a defin­ing value of our na­tion.”

Ad­min­is­tra­tion of­fi­cials have con­ceded that many of the cross­ings from Mex­ico into the United States — known

as ports of en­try — were over ca­pac­ity and al­ready had trou­ble pro­cess­ing the num­ber of asy­lum claims be­ing made there. Un­der the new pol­icy, many more are ex­pected to ar­rive at the cross­ings.

In the procla­ma­tion, Trump ac­knowl­edged the prob­lem and di­rected his ad­min­is­tra­tion “to com­mit ad­di­tional re­sources to sup­port our ports of en­try at the south­ern bor­der to as­sist in pro­cess­ing those aliens.”

Trump’s procla­ma­tion drew on the same pow­ers to con­trol the na­tion’s borders that he cited when he banned trav­el­ers from sev­eral pre­dom­i­nantly Mus­lim na­tions shortly af­ter be­com­ing pres­i­dent. The Supreme Court up­held a later ver­sion of that ban af­ter a nearly year-and-a-half le­gal fight.

The new procla­ma­tion is ex­pected to spark a sim­i­lar le­gal bat­tle.


Mean­while, about 900 Cen­tral Amer­i­cans headed out of Mex­ico City on Fri­day to em­bark on the long­est and most dan­ger­ous leg of their jour­ney to the U.S. bor­der, while thou­sands more were wait­ing one more day at an im­pro­vised shel­ter.

The trav­el­ers who got a head start bun­dled their few pos­ses­sions and started off, tak­ing a sub­way to the north­ern part of the city and then hik­ing down an ex­press­way with a po­lice es­cort.

For many, it was the first time they had ever been in a metro sys­tem, and they had lit­tle knowl­edge of the city or

the 1,740-mile route to Ti­juana that lay ahead of them.

Car­los Cas­tanaza, a 29-year-old plumber from Gu­atemala City, wrapped him­self from head to toe in a blan­ket against the cold and asked by­standers where the first toll booth was. When told it was in a town about 20 miles away, he care­fully wrote the name of the town on his hand with a pen to re­mem­ber where he was go­ing.

De­ported for driv­ing with­out a li­cense af­ter a decade work­ing in Con­necti­cut, Cas­tanaza was des­per­ate to get back to his two U.S.-born chil­dren. “I’ve been want­ing to get back for more than a year, but I couldn’t un­til the car­a­van came through,” said Cas­tanaza. “That’s why I joined the car­a­van.”

The ad­vance group hoped to reach the north-cen­tral city of Quere­taro, about 105 miles to the north­west, by night­fall.

The group of at least 4,000 mi­grants that stayed be­hind milled around the shel­ter im­pro­vised at a Mex­ico City sports com­plex, im­pa­tient to leave.

“Let’s go, let’s go!” shouted Eddy Rivera, 37, a rail-thin mi­grant from Hon­duras who said he couldn’t take stay­ing in the camp any longer. “We are all sick, from the hu­mid­ity and the cold,” said Rivera, who left be­hind four chil­dren and a wife in Hon­duras. “We have to get go­ing, we have to get to Ti­juana.”

Though he was un­sure how an un­skilled farm­worker like him­self would be al­lowed in the United States, he had a sim­ple dream: earn enough money to build a lit­tle house for his fam­ily back in Puerto Cortes, Hon­duras.

Thou­sands of trav­el­ers have spent the past few days rest­ing, re­ceiv­ing med­i­cal at­ten­tion and de­bat­ing how to pro­ceed with their ar­du­ous trek through Cen­tral Amer­ica and Mex­ico, which be­gan in mid-Oc­to­ber. On Thurs­day, car­a­van rep­re­sen­ta­tives met with of­fi­cials from the lo­cal United Na­tions of­fice and de­manded buses to take them to the bor­der, say­ing the trek would be too hard and dan­ger­ous for walk­ing and hitch­hik­ing.

Car­a­van co­or­di­na­tor Mil­ton Ben­itez said of­fi­cials had of­fered them buses for women and chil­dren but or­ga­niz­ers de­manded that they be for ev­ery­one. By Fri­day, the mi­grants said they were so an­gry at the U.N.’s lack of help that they no longer wanted U.N. ob­servers with the car­a­van.

The United Na­tions on Fri­day de­nied the of­fer, re­leas­ing a state­ment say­ing its agen­cies “are un­able to pro­vide the trans­porta­tion de­manded by some mem­bers of the car­a­van.”

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


“We want peo­ple to come into our coun­try, but they have to come into the coun­try legally,” Pres­i­dent Don­ald Trump said Fri­day as he left the White House for Paris.

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