Global

US Immigration Officials Move to Deny Asylum at Border 8 November 2018

US Immigration Officials Move to Deny Asylum at Border 8 November 2018

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 regulation would largely affect migrants from Central America's Northern Triangle - Guatemala, Honduras and El Salvador - who cross the USA border with Mexico to flee violence, including political persecution, and poverty in their home countries.

It was published last night and awaiting the president's signature.

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 almost 2,000-mile (3,200-kilometre) border.

"Congress has directly spoken to this question as to whether individuals can be rendered ineligible for asylum if they cross between ports of entry and has specifically said people are eligible regardless of where they cross", said Lee Gelernt, a lawyer with the American Civil Liberties Union.

Migrants would only be eligible for asylum if they came through official ports of entry.

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During the election, Trump put immigration at the top of voters' minds, seeking to sow fear over a caravan of Central American migrants and asylum seekers. The new rules will nearly certainly face court challenges.

In 2018, border patrols have registered more than 400,000 illegal border crossers, homeland security said.

The regulations will be incorporated in a proclamation expected to be issued Friday by President Donald Trump. Those issues were not addressed by the regulations Thursday.

The Immigration and Nationality Act (INA 208 (b)(2)(C)) unambiguously states that ineligibility grounds for asylum established by regulation must be "consistent with" section 208 of the INA, which explicitly says that aliens may lodge asylum claims "not at a designated port of entry". But many migrants are unaware of that guidance, and official border crossings have grown clogged.

Administration officials described the new policy as necessary to combat what they see as rampant abuse of the existing system, noting that most migrants who request asylum under the current process are ultimately denied.

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