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President Trump denies asylum for immigrants at U.S. border who enter outside ports of entry  3 Days ago

Source:   USA Today  

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.

“People can come in, but they have to come in through the ports of entry, and that, to me, is a very important thing,” Trump told reporters Friday. “We're not letting them in, but they're trying to flood our country. We need the wall.”

“The laws are obsolete, and they're incompetent,” Trump said. “They are the worst laws any country has anywhere in the world, and it's only because we don't have the Democrats' votes.”

Immigrants are needed to fill U.S. jobs, Trump acknowledged.

“We need people in our country, but they have to come in legally, and they have to have merit,” Trump said.

Human-rights groups blasted the asylum 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.

"The hundreds of thousands of illegal aliens who have unlawfully crossed our border are posing a significant threat to the government’s ability to effectively enforce our nation’s immigration laws,” Acting Attorney General Matthew Whitaker said in a statement Friday. “Plain and simple, there are too many loopholes in our current immigration system. The vast majority of asylum claims that originated from this system are not meritorious.”

Asylum is a form of protection granted to people who fear persecution in their home countries based on their race, religion, nationality, membership in a particular social group or their political opinion. From 2000 to 2016, the United States granted asylum to an average of 26,651 foreigners a year, according to Homeland Security data. 

The 1965 Immigration and Nationality Act states that any foreigner who arrives in the USA, "whether or not at a designated port of arrival," may apply for asylum. A United Nations treaty signed in 1951 by the United States says "refugees should not be penalized for their illegal entry" because extreme situations sometimes "require refugees to breach immigration rules."

The administration's rule change was adopted under a provision of the Immigration and Nationality Act that allowed the Department of Homeland Security to limit or restrict asylum claims, which already included restrictions against immigrants who were convicted of serious crimes or were designated dangerous to U.S. security.

Several groups have already filed lawsuits in California and the District of Columbia challenging the administration’s actions to limit asylum. The latest asylum announcement will add to the litigation, which could be decided by a Supreme Court that includes two Trump appointees.

To override current rules, the administration used a rationale similar to its argument for its controversial travel ban targeting majority-Muslim countries. U.S. law allows a president to sign a proclamation suspending entry to people who are deemed “detrimental to the interests of the United States.”

As the number of immigrants requesting asylum along the southern border increased in recent years, thousands have had to wait on the Mexican side of the border, sometimes sleeping on bridges and streets, to plead their case. The Mexican government, working with nongovernmental organizations and volunteer groups, created a system by which applicants are signed up and allowed to enter U.S. ports of entry in order.

 

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