We need people in our country but they have to come in legally and they have to have merit, Trump told reporters before leaving for Paris.
Late on Thursday afternoon, the Trump administration announced new restrictions on asylum seekers at the border with Mexico, in a move that experts said violated immigration laws.
The new regulation declares that people can apply for asylum along the US-Mexican border only at official ports of entry. Administration officials said the restrictions will go into effect on Saturday and will be in place for at least three months. They do not apply retroactively to people who have already crossed the border.
The government regards it as an emergency measure to channel asylum seekers to ports of entry, but comes in the face of hostile rhetoric from the president where he has repeatedly described desperate Central Americans fleeing places blighted by poverty and violence to seek succor in the US as an invasion.
A senior White House official said that the measure would address the historically unparalleled abuse of our immigration system along the border with Mexico.
However, the Immigration and Nationality Act says very clearly that any person can apply for asylum whether or not at a designated port of arrival, said Tom Jawetz, vice-president for immigration policy at the Center for American Progress, in a statement.
Read more The Trump administration has a track record of proclaiming illegal immigration restrictions that are later thrown out in court, beginning with multiple travel bans the White House attempted to impose shortly after Trumps inauguration. A narrow and temporary version of Trumps travel ban was allowed to take effect.
In its rush to obstruct asylum seekers, the administration is attempting an end run around the law, said Beth Werlin, executive director of the American Immigration Council. Congress has spoken clearly. Individuals are not required to ask for asylum at a port of entry. Any person in the United States must have access to the asylum process.
Motivated by a sense of moral purpose and in accordance with international norms settled after the second world war, the United States accepts asylum applicants who fear persecution in their home countries due to race, religion, nationality, membership in a particular social group or political opinion.
US: Proposed Asylum Regulation Violates Law
Just under 40,000 applications for asylum in the United States were made by Mexicans and Central Americans in the five fiscal years from 2011 through 2016, while about 35,000 came from China, according to the Transactional Records Access Clearinghouse (Trac), a data-gathering organization at Syracuse University.
Those forms of protection include “withholding of removal” — which is similar to asylum, but does not allow for green cards or bringing families — or asylum under the United Nations Convention Against Torture.
The rejection rate of more than 80% for Mexican and Central American asylum-seekers is far higher, however, than the rejection rate for Chinese asylum-seekers, 22%. Trac figures indicate that a couple of hundred Mexicans at most are granted US asylum each year.
But if the new Trump regulations seemed ill-equipped to ease pressure on the overwhelmed US asylum system, they could serve the purpose of tying Trumps political identity even more tightly to Americans concerns about immigrants from Central America and Mexico.
In the weeks leading up to the midterm elections, Trump raised alarm about an invasion of immigrants from the south and even deployed the US military to the border – in an operation that the administration and media wholly dropped after the elections.
US to deny asylum to illegal border crossers
While the administration clearly felt an urgent need to politicize the plight of a group of people – mostly mothers and children – traveling slowly through Mexico in advance of Tuesdays midterm elections, that hardly provides the urgency needed to justify putting this cruel policy in place without first hearing from the public, Jawetz said.
Trumps asylum ban, explained
With the Trump administration, its useful to remember that as much as they embrace fear-mongering and anti-immigrant bias for their perceived political benefits, they are also committed to furthering an anti-immigrant and anti-refugee agenda every single day.
A group of Central American migrants, representing the thousands participating in a caravan trying to reach the U.S. border, undertake an hours-long march to the office of the United Nations humans rights body in Mexico City, Thursday, Nov. 8, 2018. A new Trump administration rule seeks to dramatically cut back asylum claims
Trumps new asylum policy: most border crossers will be barred
The new Trump policy was signed by the homeland security secretary, Kirstjen Nielsen, the lead apologist for Trumps policy of family separations at the border, and by the acting attorney general, Matthew Whitaker, whose appointment on Wednesday was deemed plainly illegal by John Yoo, who crafted the George W Bush administrations legal argument for torture.
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.
"We need people in our country but they have to come in legally and they have to have merit," Mr Trump said Friday as he prepared to depart for Paris.
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.
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.
But the busy ports of entry already have long lines, 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 to deny asylum claims to illegal border crossers
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.
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 centers are largely at capacity. Mr Trump has said he wanted to erect "tent cities," but nothing has been funded or decided.
New Fast-Track Measures to Deny Asylum to Illegal Immigrants
The US 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 joint statement said presidents have the power to “suspend the entry of all aliens” and to impose “any restrictions he may deem to be appropriate on them” if they are judged to be “detrimental” to US interests under the Immigration and Nationality Act.
The announcement was the latest push to enforce Mr 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 Mr Trump to scrap them.
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.
"US 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.
In June the president signed an executive order promising to “keep families together” in migrant detentions, after undocumented parents and children were separated at the border.
Curbing immigration has been a signature issue for Mr 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 US 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.
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 percent of applicants are approved.
President Trump expected to sign executive order on asylum system soon
Mr 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 US fielded more than 330,000 asylum claims, nearly double the number two years earlier and surpassing Germany as highest in the world.