On Friday morning, President Donald Trump signed a presidential proclamation that requires asylum-seekers to apply at ports of entry along the U.S.-Mexico border. The ban will remain in place for 90 days or until the U.S. reaches a deal with Mexico to have the latter serve as a “safe third country,” according to the text of the proclamation. During that period, American officials will consult with the government of Mexico about the “large groups of aliens traveling through Mexico“ to the U.S., the proclamation reads. The ban blocking asylum seekers between ports of entry will not apply to unaccompanied minors, according to a Justice Department official.
During the run-up to the midterm elections, President Trump expressed concern over the so-called migrant caravan of mostly Honduran migrants who left Central America in October and have crossed illegally into Mexico with the objective of reaching American soil. Trump questioned the legitimacy of asylum seekers who come to the border, calling it a “rampant abuse” of the immigration system.
In addition to the presidential proclamation, a fast-track regulation that was posted Thursday in the Federal Register references the same federal statute the administration that was used for Trump’s early ban on travelers from several Muslim-majority countries. The statute permits the president can bar the entry of foreigners deemed “detrimental to the interests of the United States.”
Illegal aliens who are arrested coming across the border between ports of entry will still be able to apply for humanitarian relief through other legal means, such as “withholding of removal” or protection under the U.N. Convention Against Torture. However, asylum-seekers would thus face stricter standards to prove their fear of returning to their homeland. They are usually not able to apply for legal permanent residence or for family members to join them.
In Mexico City, officials there counted approximately 4,800 migrants seeking temporary shelter in a soccer stadium.
In a written statement, Acting Attorney General Matthew Whitaker praised the president. “Thanks to this decisive order from President Trump, we are continuing to provide a path to protection for those who truly need it, while stopping our generosity from being abused," he said.
But Reps. Jerry Nadler of New York and Zoe Lofgren of California, top Democrats on the Judiciary Committee, urged Trump to work with Congress rather than engage in “unconstitutional attempts to circumvent the law.”
"No one is above the law, including the President,” they said in a joint statement. “It is particularly ugly that today’s announcement seeks to impose illegal restrictions on migrants fleeing violence and abuse.“
In a press release, Dan Stein of the Federation of Americans for Immigration Reform praised Trump’s proclamation and called on Congress to take action. Stein's group has long advocated the reforming of the immigration system. FAIR suggested changes that Congress can address in order to reform the asylum process:
“Improve the Credible Fear Standard to Protect Legitimate Claims and Prevent Fraud: Congress must fix the minimal standard under current law that allows aliens – often economic migrants – to show a ‘credible fear of persecution’ and then obtain release into the interior of the country while their claim goes through backlogged immigration courts. Aliens should be required to clearly demonstrate a credible fear of persecution to stop fraud and help ensure that only legitimate claims are approved. To punish those who knowingly abuse our generosity, Congress should impose and enforce penalties for the filing of frivolous, baseless, or fraudulent asylum claims, and expand the use of expedited removal as appropriate.
“Allow for extended family detention and increase detention space: Congress can legislatively overrule the “Flores Settlement Agreement,” a court settlement and subsequent judicial rulings that limit the detention of families with children to just 20 days – a time period entirely too brief to complete a full and fair asylum adjudication. This loophole is the ‘jet engine’ driving the catch and release program. Further, Congress must fund enough detention space – including family detention centers – so no one is released while they await a court date.
“Amend the William Wilberforce Trafficking Victims Protection Reauthorization Act (TVPRA): This well-intended humanitarian law, which was designed to protect minors from sex traffickers, is now being exploited. Minors from across the globe are now sent to our borders by families hoping to establish an immigration anchor in the United States. The overly broad provisions of the TVPRA virtually guarantee that unaccompanied minors will be admitted to the United States, and allowed to stay, in order to complete lengthy judicial proceedings that inadvertently encourage both fraud and further exploitation of children by parties savvy enough to exploit the system.”