President Trump denies asylum for immigrants at U.S. border who enter outside ports of entry

WASHINGTON – President Donald Trump signed a proclamation on Friday that will deny asylum to immigrants who enter the U.S. illegally, a move aimed at a caravan of Central American migrants moving toward the U.S.-Mexico border.

The departments of Justice and Homeland Security had previously announced details of the plan to dramatically cut back immigrants’ ability to request asylum, a direct challenge to federal law and international conventions that Trump said is necessary to stop the migrant caravan, which is currently near Mexico City and numbers between 3,000 and 4,000 people.

“They’re flooding our country, we’re not letting them in. but they’re trying to flood our country. We need the wall,” Trump said Friday. 

He blamed Democrats for the current immigration laws.

“We want people to come into our country, but they have to come into our country legally,” Trump said. “We want people to come in through the merit system so they can work for all of these great companies that I have coming into our country.”

Human-rights groups blasted the move.

“Asylum is not a loophole, it is a lifeline,” Kumi Naidoo, Amnesty International´s secretary general, said in a statement. “This policy needlessly places the lives of thousands of people in danger. U.S law states that any individual can seek asylum, whether or not they are at an official point of entry.”

Naidoo said the migrants are not a security threat. They are “mothers, fathers, and children fleeing extremely dangerous situations enduring a perilous journey because they’ve had no choice but to leave their home.”

Immigrants typically are allowed to request asylum whether they present themselves at ports of entry or sidestep those ports and illegally enter the country. But the rules finalized by the administration would bar those who do not enter through ports of entry from making an asylum claim. Those who try to enter illegally would be placed into expedited deportation proceedings. The rules go into effect at 12:01 a.m. Saturday. It is similar to Trump’s travel ban from mostly Muslim countries.

Immigrants will still be eligible for admission under the Convention Against Torture, and processing will be handled expeditiously for those having a “reasonable” fear of persecution rather than the previous standard of a “credible” fear, administration officials said.

Justice and Homeland Security officials said they are negotiating with Mexico about accepting deported migrants. Mexico has already agreed to grant asylum to immigrants moving north from Central America, largely from Guatemala, Honduras and El Salvador, which U.S. officials urge as the preferred location to receive asylum from persecution.

Trump hinted at such a change in the weeks leading up to Tuesday’s midterm elections as part of a broader strategy in which he focused almost exclusively on immigration in an effort to rile up the GOP base.

During a news conference four days before the midterm elections, he said there was “rampant abuse” of the nation’s asylum system, which saw an increase in claims from 5,000 in 2008 to 97,000 in 2018, mostly fueled by Central Americans fleeing violence and poverty in their home countries.

During the year that ended Sept. 30, there were 124,511 immigrants denied admission at ports along the southern border and 396,579 immigrants were apprehended for entering illegally between ports, according to Trump’s proclamation.

“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,” Homeland Security Secretary Kirstjen Nielsen and Acting Attorney General Matthew Whitaker said in a joint statement.
 

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