Asy­lum limit chal­lenged in court

The Reporter (Lansdale, PA) - - FRONT PAGE - By Colleen Long

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’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.

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 (3,200-kilo­me­ter) bor­der. Bor­der Pa­trol agents in Yuma said they ar­rested nearly 450 mi­grants in Western Ari­zona this week.

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. Even de­spite that, il­le­gal cross­ings are his­tor­i­cally low.

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.

“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. Fam­ily de­ten­tion cen­ters are largely at ca­pac­ity. Trump has said he wanted to erect “tent cities,” but noth­ing has been funded or de­cided.

The U.S. is also work­ing

with Mex­ico in an ef­fort to send some mi­grants back across the bor­der. Right now, laws al­low only Mex­i­can na­tion­als to be swiftly re­turned and in­creas­ingly those claim­ing asy­lum are from Cen­tral Amer­ica, not Mex­ico.

Trump pushed im­mi­gra­tion is­sues 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 were more than 5,600 U.S. troops de­ployed to the bor­der mis­sion, with about 550 ac­tu­ally work­ing on the bor­der in Texas.

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. But Trump in­sisted the cit­i­zen­ship is­sue would be pushed through.

“We’re sign­ing it. We’re do­ing it,” he said.

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. 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.


Pres­i­dent Donald Trump talks to the me­dia be­fore board­ing Marine One on the South Lawn of the White House, Fri­day in Wash­ing­ton.

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