On the heels of sending 5,200 American troops to the US-Mexico border and pledging to terminate birthright citizenship via executive fiat, President Trump now plans to issue an executive order revamping the United States asylum process, the Wall Street Journal reported Wednesday evening.
White House officials familiar with the matter told the WSJ that the aim was to restrict asylum requests to those made at designated ports of entry along the border:
According to the directive, U.S. officials will require asylum seekers to go to a point of entry along the border and make a claim for asylum, which would bar those who cross illegally. Currently, migrants who cross the border into the U.S. have up to a year to request asylum, regardless of how they got here.
The argument being made by the administration is that this change will enable safer, more orderly processing and better resource planning, an official said.
The officials, who have seen a draft of the directive, said the intention is to implement the directive temporarily, although a time period wasn’t specified.
The order could be signed as early as Friday morning, when the President is scheduled to depart to Paris for a military celebration marking the 100th anniversary of the end of World War I and a possible meeting with Russian president Vladimir Putin.
President Trump, who has recently considered reviving his family separation policy as a migrant caravan approaches in what he calls an “invasion,” alluded to this directive last week, when he announced that he was “finalizing a plan” to curb asylum requests from immigrants who enter the country illegally.
“Under this plan, the illegal aliens will no longer get a free pass into the country by lodging meritless claims in seeking asylum,” the President said at the time.
According to the President, refugees caught crossing the border illegally would be held in tents pending legal proceedings. “We are building massive amounts of tents,” he told reporters last week, “and we will hold them in tents.”
Current laws under the Immigration and Nationality Act (INA) of 1965 permit immigrants in the United States to apply for asylum whether they entered the country through an officially designated port of entry or not. However, President Trump insists that an executive order amending this practice would be “totally legal.”
Politico has reported that those familiar with the actions say they would likely rest on 8 U.S. Code § 1182(f), the statutory basis for President Trump’s travel ban, under which the President is granted broad discretionary powers in determining the admission of aliens into the country:
(f) Suspension of entry or imposition of restrictions by President
Whenever the President finds that the entry of any aliens or of any class of aliens into the United States would be detrimental to the interests of the United States, he may by proclamation, and for such period as he shall deem necessary, suspend the entry of all aliens or any class of aliens as immigrants or nonimmigrants, or impose on the entry of aliens any restrictions he may deem to be appropriate. Whenever the Attorney General finds that a commercial airline has failed to comply with regulations of the Attorney General relating to requirements of airlines for the detection of fraudulent documents used by passengers traveling to the United States (including the training of personnel in such detection), the Attorney General may suspend the entry of some or all aliens transported to the United States by such airline.
This interpretation of the statute was recently upheld in a 5-4 Supreme Court decision in June, 2018.
It should be noted that as a signatory to the 1967 Protocol Relating to the Status of Refugees, the United States is legally obligated to provide protections to persons who qualify as refugees, defined under Section 101(a)(42)(A) of the INA as people who are unable to return to or receive protection from their home countries due to past persecution or a well-founded fear of future persecution “on account of race, religion, nationality, membership in a particular social group, or political opinion.”
The two caravans headed northwards are comprised of anywhere between 4,500 and 8,000 people, and many of them will be content to stay in Mexico or other countries south of the border. For perspective, according to the American Immigration Council, 20,455 individuals were granted asylum in the United States in Fiscal Year 2016.
For more stats on asylum-seekers and an in-depth look at the current process for requesting asylum within the United States, check out this fact sheet from the AIC’s website.