Trump to set out details of new restrictions on asylum seekers

Trump to set out details of new restrictions on asylum seekers
Trump signs declaration to limit asylum protections for migrants
U.S. President Donald Trump on Friday invoked extraordinary national security powers to deny asylum to migrants who enter the country illegally, tightening the border as caravans of Central Americans slowly approach the United States.

Trump is using the same powers he employed to push through a version of the travel ban that was upheld by the Supreme Court, albeit on its third attempt after earlier versions were rejected by the courts. The proclamation puts into place regulations adopted Thursday that circumvent laws stating that anyone is eligible for asylum no matter how he or she enters the country.

“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 on Thursday, on condition of anonymity.

"We need people in our country but they have to come in legally and they have to have merit," Trump said Friday as he prepared to depart for Paris.

“The vast majority of aliens who enter illegally today come from the Northern Triangle countries, and large portions of those aliens assert a credible fear,” the regulation’s text says. “Channeling those aliens to ports of entry would encourage these aliens to first avail themselves of offers of asylum from Mexico.”

Under Trump plan, migrants who cross U.S. border illegally would be ineligible for asylum

The measures are meant to funnel asylum seekers through official border crossings for speedy rulings, officials said, instead of having them try to circumvent such crossings on the nearly 3,200-kilometre border\ between the U.S. and Mexico. 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.

“U.S. law specifically allows individuals to apply for asylum whether or not they are at a port of entry,” said Omar Jadwat, director of the American Civil Liberties Union’s Immigrants’ Rights Project. “It is illegal to circumvent that by agency or presidential decree.”

Video: White House to end asylum access on southern border

The move was spurred in part by caravans of Central American migrants slowly moving north on foot but will apply to anyone caught crossing illegally, officials said Thursday. It's unknown whether those in the caravan, many fleeing violence in their homelands, plan to cross illegally.

The regulation would largely affect migrants from Central America’s Northern Triangle – Guatemala, Honduras and El Salvador – who cross the U.S. border with Mexico to flee violence and poverty in their home countries.

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 asylum under the United Nations Convention Against Torture.

The Trump administration took a major step on Thursday to restrict asylum claims by migrants, putting forward a regulation that would make individuals ineligible for asylum if they cross the U.S. southern border illegally.

The announcement was the latest push to enforce Trump's hardline stance on immigration through regulatory changes and presidential orders, bypassing Congress. 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 scrap them.

Once the plan goes into full effect, which is expected to happen in coming days, migrants entering at the U.S. southern border would only be eligible for asylum if they come to official ports of entry.

The new changes were likely to be met with legal challenges, too. Omar Jadwat, director of the American Civil Liberties Union's Immigrants' Rights Project, said Thursday they were clearly illegal.

The plan is the Trump administration’s latest move to limit the eligibility of migrants for asylum in the United States.

Trump takes major step to restrict asylum claims – live updates

"U.S. law specifically allows individuals to apply for asylum whether or not they are at a port of entry. It is illegal to circumvent that by agency or presidential decree," he said.

Curbing immigration has been a signature issue for Trump, who pushed it hard in the days leading up to Tuesday's midterm elections, railing against the caravans that are still hundreds of kilometres from the border as an impending "invasion."

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Trump administration moves to restrict asylum seekers at 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 are more than 5,600 U.S. troops deployed to the border mission, with about 550 actually working on the border in Texas. 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.

Officials have turned away asylum seekers at border crossings because of overcrowding, telling them to return later. 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 Diegos main crossing.

US moves to ban refugees who enter illegally

It's not clear what their duties will be, as existing legislation prevents troops from interacting with migrants and acting in a law enforcement capacity.

Mr Trump is using the same powers he used to push through a version of the travel ban that was upheld by the Supreme Court. The proclamation puts into place regulations adopted Thursday that circumvent laws stating that anyone is eligible for asylum no matter how he or she enters the country.

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.

The asylum section of the Immigration and Nationality Act says a migrant is allowed to make a claim up to a year after arriving in the U.S., and it doesn't matter how they arrive — illegally or through a border crossing.

Migrants who cross illegally are generally arrested and often seek asylum or some other form of protection. Claims have spiked in recent years, and there is a backlog of more than 800,000 cases pending in immigration court, with a wait time that can be nearly two years.

The changes are meant to funnel asylum seekers through official border crossings for speedy rulings, officials said, instead of having them try to circumvent such crossings on the nearly 2,000-mile (3,200-kilometer) border.

Less than one-quarter of applicants from Central America were approved between 2012 and 2017, although it's not known how many stayed in the country despite a deportation order, or stayed without even attending a hearing. Trump's recently departed attorney general Jeff Session announced a policy change at his Justice Department to deny survivors of domestic abuse and gang violence asylum claims, which could further curtail the success rate.

Trump has long said those seeking asylum should come through legal ports of entry. But many migrants are unaware of that guidance, and official border crossings have grown clogged.

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.

Administration Moves to Curb Migrants Asylum Claims

Officials have turned away asylum seekers at border crossings because of overcrowding, telling them to return later. 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.

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.

In theory, the ban could be lifted if Mexico agrees to sign a safe third country agreement with the United States — which would allow the US to turn back all asylum-seekers who had traveled through Mexico. (The US currently has such an agreement with Canada.) A safe-third-country agreement would essentially make the current Central American migration, which has brought hundreds of thousands of people from Guatemala, Honduras and El Salvador to the US and Mexico to seek asylum in the last several years, Mexicos problem alone to solve. Mexico, whose new president will arrive in office on December 1, has shown no interest so far in signing such an agreement.

US To Deny Asylum To Immigrants Crossing Border Illegally

While there has been a recent spike in asylum claims, the number of illegal crossings at the southern border is a fraction of the totals seen from the late 1980s through the early 2000s.

The reasonable fear standard is used only in rare cases under the status quo — for immigrants whove already been ordered deported and returned to the US, and immigrants who have committed serious crimes. But the difference in pass rates is striking. In credible fear interviews, about 75 percent of all asylum seekers pass. In reasonable fear interviews, a little more than 25 percent do. Even assuming that many asylum seekers who are currently subject to the credible fear standard would also pass the more stringent one, thats still thousands of immigrants a month who would end up failing their screening interviews and being summarily deported.

Secretary of State Mike Pompeo said in September the country would take no more than 30,000 refugees in a year. The U.S. took in approximately 200,000 refugees per year in 1980, and the total had never fallen below 70,000 before Trump entered office.

The administration has also looked to end protections under programs in which tens of thousands of people from Honduras and El Salvador, who entered the country after hurricanes and earthquakes devastated their countries near the beginning of the century. Those moves have been challenged in court.

People who do pass the reasonable fear screening will be allowed to go before an immigration judge. But they still wouldnt be eligible for asylum. Their only options would be withholding of removal and protection under the Convention Against Torture. That allows the US to fulfill its obligations under international law — which prevents countries from returning migrants to places where their lives are in danger — but doesnt give people any access to permanent legal status. (This Vox article offers more detail as to how this withholding-only process will work.)

Trump administration to limit migrant asylum claims at US-Mexico border

Trump has also expressed an interest in ending birthright citizenship to those born to non-citizens and for ending the the so-called DACA protections of those who've been in the U.S. for years but were brought into the country illegally while children.

Under US law, people who enter the US without papers are legally able to apply for asylum unless they are subject to specific restrictions. This policy — enacted via a regulation formally issued Friday morning, and Trumps presidential proclamation signed soon after — turns that on its head. It adds a restriction that would affect the majority of the 10,000 people a month — most of them Central Americans, and many of them families — currently turning themselves in to border agents in hopes of being protected from violence in their home countries.

It's unclear how many people en route to the U.S. in the current caravans will even make it to the border.

Heres how it will work as of midnight Friday night: Someone who enters the US without papers between ports of entry, from Mexico, will still be entitled to an interview with an asylum officer. But if she entered between ports of entry, the asylum officer is required to say that she does not have a credible fear of removal. Instead, hes supposed to screen her for a reasonable fear of removal — a standard that requires not just a significant possibility of persecution but a determination that persecution is more likely than not.

About 4,800 migrants are sheltered in a sports complex in Mexico City, some 965 kilometres from the U.S. border. Several smaller groups were trailing hundreds of kilometres to the south; officials estimated about 7,000 in all were in the country in the caravans. The migrants are largely poor people, and many say they're fleeing violence. More than 1,700 were children under 18, and more than 300 were children under age five.

Consistent with our immigration laws, the President has the broad authority to suspend or restrict the entry of aliens into the United States if he determines it to be in the national interest to do so. Todays rule applies this important principle to aliens who violate such a suspension or restriction regarding the southern border imposed by the President by invoking an express authority provided by Congress to restrict eligibility for asylum. 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. Today, we are using the authority granted to us by Congress to bar aliens who violate a Presidential suspension of entry or other restriction from asylum eligibility.

Officials Change Asylum Rules to Ensure Quick Deportation of Economic Migrants

Similar caravans have gathered regularly over the years and have generally dwindled by the time they reach the U.S. border. Most have passed largely unnoticed.

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Trumps Proclamation to Restrict the Rights of People Seeking Asylum – Amnesty International USA

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Scores of Central American migrants, representing the thousands participating in a caravan trying to reach the U.S. border, rest in front of the office of the United Nations human rights body, after undertaking an hours-long march to demand buses, in Mexico City, Thursday, Nov. 8, 2018. (AP Photo/Rebecca Blackwell)

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WASHINGTON — President Donald Trump on Friday invoked extraordinary national security powers to deny asylum to migrants who enter the country illegally, tightening the border as caravans of Central Americans slowly approach the United States.

Trump is using the same powers he used to push through a version of the travel ban that was upheld by the Supreme Court. The proclamation puts into place regulations adopted Thursday that circumvent laws stating that anyone is eligible for asylum no matter how he or she enters the country.

US immigration officials move to restrict asylum at border

"We need people in our country but they have to come in legally and they have to have merit," Trump said Friday as he prepared to depart for Paris.

House Democrats, who won control of the body this week, have said they will investigate Trumps firings of Jeff Sessions. They sent letters Thursday to several top administration officials demanding the preservation of all documents and materials relevant to the special counsels Russia investigation and the Sessions firing.

Administration officials say the measures are in effect for at least three months, but could be extended. They go into effect Saturday and dont affect people who are already in the country.

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The changes are meant to funnel asylum seekers through official border crossings for speedy rulings, officials said, instead of having them try to circumvent such crossings on the nearly 2,000-mile (3,200-kilometre) border.

Illegal border crossers now ineligible for asylum, White House says

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.

The move was spurred in part by caravans of Central American migrants slowly moving north on foot but will apply to anyone caught crossing illegally, officials said. Its unknown whether those in the caravan, many fleeing violence in their homeland, plan to cross illegally.

“US law specifically allows individuals to apply for asylum whether or not they are at a port of entry,” said Omar Jadwat, director of the American Civil Liberties Unions Immigrants Rights Project. “It is illegal to circumvent that by agency or presidential decree.”

Trump administration moves to block asylum for certain migrants

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 doesnt allow for green cards or bringing families — or asylum under the United Nations Convention Against Torture.

Last week, he said he would be taking steps to limit asylum claims. His administration also deployed thousands of troops to the border, and said he massive tent cities are being erected to house asylum seekers until there is a decision on their application. 

Homeland Security officials said they were revising staffing at the border crossings manage the crush, but its not clear how migrants, specifically families, would be held as their cases are adjudicated. Family detention centres are largely at capacity. Trump has said he wanted to erect "tent cities," but nothing has been funded or decided.

The regulation would largely affect migrants from Central Americas Northern Triangle – Guatemala, Honduras and El Salvador – who cross the US border with Mexico to flee violence, including political persecution, and poverty in their home countries. 

The U.S. is also working with Mexico to send some migrants back across the border. Right now, laws allow only Mexican nationals to be swiftly returned.

The Trump administration took a major step on Thursday to restrict asylum claims, putting forward a regulation that would make individuals ineligible for asylum if they cross the US southern border between official ports of entry.

The announcement was the latest push to enforce Trumps hardline 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 scrap them.

Once the plan goes into full effect, which is expected to happen in coming days, migrants entering at the US southern border would only be eligible for asylum if they come to official ports of entry.

US to deny asylum claims to illegal border crossers

The new changes were likely to be met with legal challenges, too. Omar Jadwat, director of the American Civil Liberties Unions Immigrants Rights Project, said Thursday they were clearly illegal.

Trump moves to sharply restrict asylum, as major immigration issues head toward Supreme Court – Los Angeles Ti

"U.S. law specifically allows individuals to apply for asylum whether or not they are at a port of entry. It is illegal to circumvent that by agency or presidential decree," he said.

Curbing immigration has been a signature issue for Trump, who pushed it hard in the days leading up to Tuesdays 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 are more than 5,600 U.S. troops deployed to the border mission, with about 550 actually working on the border in Texas. 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.

How Trump Is Toughening Asylum Rules for Immigrants

Trump also suggested hed 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.

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.

The asylum section of the Immigration and Nationality Act says a migrant is allowed to make a claim up to a year after arriving in the U.S., and it doesnt matter how they arrive — illegally or through a border crossing.

Migrants who cross illegally are generally arrested and often seek asylum or some other form of protection. Claims have spiked in recent years, and there is a backlog of more than 800,000 cases pending in immigration court. Generally, only about 20 per cent of applicants are approved.

Trump has long said those seeking asylum should come through legal ports of entry. But many migrants are unaware of that guidance, and official border crossings have grown clogged.

Officials have turned away asylum seekers at border crossings because of overcrowding, telling them to return later. 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 Diegos main crossing.

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.

Its unclear how many people en route to the U.S. will even make it to the border. About 4,800 migrants are sheltered in a sports complex in Mexico City, some 600 miles (965 kilometres) from the U.S. border. Several smaller groups were trailing hundreds of miles to the south; officials estimated about 7,000 in all were in the country in the caravans. The migrants are largely poor people and many say theyre fleeing violence; more than 1,700 were children under 18, and more than 300 were children under age 5.

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

Associated Press writers Elliot Spagat in San Diego and Jill Colvin and Zeke Miller in Washington contributed to this report.