President’s attempt to limit asylum contested
President WASHINGTON —
Donald Trump issued an order Friday to deny asylum to migrants who enter the country illegally, tightening the border as caravans of Central Americans slowly approach the United States. The plan was immediately challenged in court.
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,” Trump said Friday as he departed for Paris.
The American Civil Liberties Union and other legal groups swiftly sued in federal court in Northern California to block the regulations, arguing the measures were clearly 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 rules on hold while the litigation progresses.
It wasn’t clear whether the case would go before a judge before the rules go into effect Saturday. They would be in place for at least three months but could be extended, and don’t affect people already in the country.
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 Trump to retreat.
“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,” 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.
A group of Central American migrants march toward the office of the United Nations’ humans rights body in Mexico City on Thursday.