Trump administration blocks asylum claims by those crossing border illegally

Trump just announced a big change to immigration policy – and it will affect caravan migrants

Migrants who cross the southern United States border illegally will no longer be eligible for asylum under a new rule, the Trump administration has said.

"The biggest loophole drawing illegal aliens to our borders is the use of fraudulent or meritless asylum claims to gain entry into our great country", Mr. Trump said last week. The move comes as a caravan of thousands of migrants is slowly crossing Mexico toward the United States.

Administration officials have said existing US asylum rules encourage illegal immigration and bog down legitimate claims.

But with long queues of migrants at entry points already officials often have to tell those trying to enter the United States to return at a later time.

This is expected to put a dent in those streaming into an already overburdened system, officials said, noting that there is a backlog of more than 700,000 cases in the immigration courts.

After failing to meet this goal, Trump said that the US was deploying 5,000 military personnel to the US-Mexico border.

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In June, then-Attorney General Jeff Sessions issued an appellate decision that sharply narrowed the circumstances under which immigrants can use violence at home as ground for USA asylum.

The regulation would "channel inadmissible aliens to ports of entry, where they would be processed in a controlled, orderly, and lawful manner", according to the statement.

The US president used extraordinary national security power to impose the new rule as a migrant "caravan" containing thousands of Central Americans heads to the US border.

"US law specifically allows individuals to apply for asylum whether or not they are at a port of entry".

He called a current caravan, which is still hundreds of miles from the USA border and dwindling in numbers, an "invasion" and said it would bring hardened criminals to U.S. streets.

U.S. Customs and Border Protection officials defend the practice on the grounds that the border crossings are not equipped to process hundreds of asylum seekers daily, and officers must continue to facilitate ordinary cross-border travel and trade while protecting the country from terrorists and drug runners. These are not eligible asylum claims.

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In 2017, the US fielded more than 330,000 asylum claims, almost double the number two years earlier and surpassing Germany as highest in the world.

Less than 10 per cent of cases result in asylum being granted, the government says.

Secretary of State Mike Pompeo said in September the country would take no more than 30,000 refugees in a year.

But US officials said that as Mexico is the first safe country US-bound migrants from Guatemala, El Salvador and Honduras arrive in, the asylum claims should be presented there. Those moves have been challenged in court.

It's unclear how many people en route to the US will even make it to the border.

Mr. Trump has also threatened to end birthright citizenship through executive order, although he has yet to do so. About 4,800 migrants are sheltered in a sports complex in Mexico City, some 600 miles (965 kilometers) from the US border. More than 1,700 were children under 18, and more than 300 were children under age five. Most have passed largely unnoticed.

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