President’s order would limit asylum
ACLU, other groups say the move is illegal, file challenge in U.S. court
WASHINGTON — President 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’ decision to provide asylum to those in danger regardless of the manner of one’s entry,” ACLU attorney Lee Gelernt said.
The litigation also seeks to put the rules on hold while the litigation progresses.
The rules, which go into effect Saturday, would be in place for at least three months but could be extended, and don’t affect people already in the country.
Officials said the asylum 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.
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.
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 centers are largely at capacity.
Meanwhile, about 500 Central American migrants headed out of Mexico City on Friday to embark on the longest and most dangerous leg of their journey to the U.S. border.
The group that 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.
Meanwhile, an additional 4,000 to 5,000 migrants milled around the massive shelter improvised at a Mexico City sports complex, impatient to leave.
Caravan coordinator Milton Benitez said officials had offered them buses for women and children, but organizers demanded that they be for everyone.
Mexico City is more than 600 miles from the nearest U.S. border crossing at McAllen, Texas. But the migrants who left Friday opted to take the 1,740-mile route to Tijuana because the shorter route is so rife with drug gangs that the migrants consider it too dangerous to risk.
In Mexico City, a sleeping Honduran girl was being carried as a group of Central American migrants sought to reach the U.S. border.