Trump Plans Asylum Restrictions to Block Migrant Caravans from Entering the U.S.

Speaking on Thursday, President Trump teased reporters with an announcement related to the US border crisis, which will come on Friday, according to reports.

“It will be a statement having to do with the border, and having to do with people illegally coming over the border,” said Trump. “And it will be my biggest statement, so far, on the border.”

According to officials within the administration, Trump is now considering new immigration restrictions set to combat the surging numbers of Central American migrants currently demanding entry into the US, after having entered through Mexico.

Other reports indicated that Trump is considering threatening tariffs against Mexico, should the country’s government not do more to address the growing crisis at the border.

From Politico:

President Donald Trump is considering sweeping restrictions on asylum that would effectively block Central American migrants from entering the U.S., according to several administration officials and advocates briefed on the plan.

A draft proposal circulating among Trump’s Homeland Security advisers would prohibit migrants from seeking asylum if they have resided in a country other than their own before coming to the U.S., according to a DHS official and an outside advocate familiar with the plan.

If executed, it would deny asylum to thousands of migrants waiting just south of the border, many of whom have trekked a perilous journey through Mexico.

Trump alluded to the asylum changes Thursday as he departed for Colorado, telling reporters he is “going to do something very dramatic on the border” and would announce it in a “big league statement.”

“It will be a statement having to do with the border and having to do with people illegally coming over the border,” he said. “And it will be my biggest statement, so far, on the border. We have brought something to the light of the people. They see now it’s a national emergency, and most people agree.”

Trump said he would not be closing the border as he has threatened numerous times. “The asylum procedures are ridiculous,” he said. “No place in the world has what we have in terms of ridiculous immigration laws.”

The White House did not respond to questions about the president’s remarks but two people familiar with the proposal said he was referring to asylum changes.

Immigration advocates familiar with the proposal expressed alarm at its scope, even as they questioned whether it would hold up in court. U.S. law allows refugees to request asylum when they arrive on U.S. soil but has long included an exemption for those who have already emigrated to a safe country.

“This decision will cause a chain reaction — Central Americans who are fleeing for their lives being forced back into the burning house they are escaping,” said Pili Tobar, deputy director of America’s Voice, an immigration advocacy group. “A rational approach … is to treat this like the regional refugee crisis that it is and bolster our asylum and refugee process instead of slamming the door shut with a childish hope that migrants will not come or conditions causing them to flee will get better on their own.”

The move could reach beyond Central America, affecting asylum seekers in other parts of the world, according to an activist who has been briefed on the issue.

Trump, frustrated with his administration’s inability to halt the tide of immigrants at the southern border, has orchestrated a major staffing shakeup at the Homeland Security Department to get tougher on the issue.

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His new acting Homeland Security Secretary, Kevin McAleenan, just returned from a trip to Guatemala where he urged officials to try to stop the flow of migrants leaving the Central American country.

While the details of the new restrictions are still in flux, many migrants have been held up by Trump‘s “remain in Mexico” policy that forces asylum seekers to stay in Mexico while their asylum requests are pending.

“It’s unbelievably extreme to try to inhibit anyone who comes through another country in their quest for asylum,” said Kerri Talbot, the federal advocacy director for Immigration Hub, an advocacy group for migrants. “It basically means it would block all Central Americans from coming to the U.S.”

While Trump aides believe they can make the changes through an administrative rule, they are also seeking a legislative fix that would be far less vulnerable to a court challenge. Similar language is included in Trump’s emerging immigration bill that boosts security at the southern border and pushes the nation to admit more high-skilled, well-educated immigrants, rather than immigrants who enter the U.S. based on family ties, according to two people familiar with the proposal.