The Trump administration announced a new immigration rule Thursday that will block migrants from seeking asylum if they fail to cross the U.S. border at an official port of entry. The sweeping move is part of the administration’s ongoing effort to restrict migration.
Drawing on national security powers, the Departments of Homeland Security and Justice issued a fast-track rule barring immigrants from seeking asylum if they first enter the U.S. illegally. Administration officials said the new rule is contingent on a proclamation from President Donald Trump determining which migrants will be affected by the new regulation. The proclamation is expected as soon as Friday.
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. The goal of the new policy, according to a document the administration posted Thursday, is to push migrants toward official ports of entry where they can be processed in a “controlled, orderly, and lawful manner.”
Immigrant rights advocates said the new rule amounts to a humanitarian crisis, as it will likely significantly reduce the number of people, fleeing violence and persecution in their home countries, who are able to request asylum in the U.S.
The rule will also likely to face steep legal challenges from immigrant advocacy groups who say the new rule violates decades-old asylum laws. “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,” said Omar Jadwat, director of the ACLU’s Immigrants’ Rights Project, in a statement.
The new rule comes as a so-called caravan of migrants from Central America travels north by foot through Mexico to the U.S. border. President Trump has threatened the group, which he has characterized as an “invasion,” and promised to shut down the border before their arrival, which may come as early as mid-November. At Trump’s request, the Department of Defense has already deployed 5,600 military personnel to the border to assist U.S. Customs and Border Protection. More than 7,000 active duty troops could eventually be deployed, Defense Department officials said. In late October, Trump told supporters that he would send as many as 15,000 active-duty troops.
This summer, multiple news outlets reported that hundreds of migrants who had legally presented themselves to U.S. agents at official ports of entry, like San Ysidro, California and El Paso, Texas, were told that their asylum requests could not be processed. A report by the left-leaning Washington Office on Latin America suggested that “the number of unaccompanied children and family members admitted to the ports of entry, mainly for protection requests, plummeted by 42 percent from May to June.”