Trump administration moves to restrict asylum seekers at border

Members of one of the migrant caravans riding on a truck in Donaji Mexico last week

Members of one of the migrant caravans riding on a truck in Donaji Mexico last week

The Trump administration on Thursday unveiled a "interim final rule" stipulating that any and all immigrants who illegally cross into the US' southern border with Mexico will be deemed ineligible to apply for asylum.

The plan is President Donald Trump's administration's latest move to limit the eligibility of individuals for asylum in the United States. The official did not say where asylum-seekers would be housed should they arrive at those ports of entry in large numbers.

Trump said last week that he planned to modify the asylum process to make it more hard for Central American migrants in the caravan to request protection. "Under current practice, border agents are repeatedly turning asylum-seekers away and telling them to come back another day".

"US law is crystal clear that asylum seekers have the right to lodge asylum claims regardless of where they enter the country, and President Trump can not change the law on a whim", said Bill Frelick, Refugee Rights director at Human Rights Watch.

But according to the new rule, Trump has authority to restrict illegal immigration "if he determines it to be in the national interest". "It is illegal to circumvent that by agency or presidential decree", said Omar Jadwat, director of the ACLU's Immigrants' Rights Project, in a statement.

"Our asylum system is overwhelmed with too many meritless asylum claims from aliens who place a tremendous burden on our resources, preventing us from being able to expeditiously grant asylum to those who truly deserve it", the Department of Homeland Security secretary, Kirstjen Nielsen, and acting attorney general, Matthew Whitaker, said in a joint statement. 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.

President Donald Trump arrives to speak at a campaign rally, November 4, 2018, in Macon, Ga.

Sessions, who resigned at Trump's request this week, also instructed immigration judges and asylum officers to view illegal border-crossing as a "serious adverse factor" in deciding a case and to consider whether applicants could have escaped danger by relocating within their own countries.

On a call with reporters Thursday, senior administration officials emphasized that point, claiming that it would mean asylum claims will be handled more efficiently.

Members of one of the migrant caravans riding on a truck in Donaji, Mexico, last week.

"What we are attempting to do is trying to funnel. asylum claims through the ports of entry where we are better resourced, have better capabilities and better manpower and staffing to actually handle those claims in an expeditious and efficient manner", a senior administration official told reporters in a news briefing Thursday, on condition of anonymity.

"President Trump's Proclamation is yet another attempt to destroy the United States´ long tradition to guarantee the fundamental human right to seek protection from life-threatening fear and persecution". It's unknown whether those in the caravan, many fleeing violence in their homeland, plan to cross illegally.

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