Trump signs order denying asylum to illegal migrants

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

Trump administration moves forward with asylum restrictions

A group of Central American migrants, representing the thousands participating in a caravan trying to reach the USA border, undertake an hours-long march to the office of the United Nations' humans rights body in Mexico City, Thursday, Nov. 8, 2018.

But the administration official argued that "what we're attempting to do is trying to funnel credible fear claims, or asylum claims, through the ports of entry where we are better resourced".

Officials have turned away asylum seekers at border crossings because of overcrowding, telling them to return later.

The United States embarked on Friday on a policy of automatically rejecting asylum claims of people who cross the Mexican border illegally in a bid to deter Central American migrants and force Mexico to handle them.

The interim final rule asserts that the administration can effect these changes under its regulatory authority, but in fact the rule represents an unlawful attempt to change the letter of the statute by regulation.

The caravan has remained undeterred, and participants said they plan on applying for asylum at an official port of entry. The proclamation puts into place regulations adopted Thursday that circumvent laws stating that anyone is eligible for asylum no matter how he or she enters the country.

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The new rule was announced via a joint statement by the Justice Department and the Department of Homeland Security, and will not become effective until US President Donald Trump issues a proclamation, which is expected sometime Friday. Trump has vowed to stop them from entering the country and made the issue a key part of his closing argument ahead of this week's midterm elections.

Senior administration officials hope the effort to make asylum claims more orderly will help speed up the process of assessing and adjudicating the claims. Since 2014, asylum claims at the border have increased fourfold, adding to a backlog of more than 750,000 pending cases in US immigration courts.

The new rule is nearly certain to be challenged in courts.

"Congress has directly spoken to this question as to whether individuals can be rendered ineligible for asylum if they cross between ports of entry and has specifically said people are eligible regardless of where they cross", said Lee Gelernt, a lawyer with the American Civil Liberties Union.

It is unclear how numerous migrants traveling in the caravans will approach the ports of entry and attempt to enter legally. Nonetheless, it would still give those who cross illegally a way to get into the immigration court backlog and released from custody, especially those who are traveling with children. Those moves have been challenged in court. Several smaller groups were trailing hundreds of kilometres to the south; officials estimated about 7,000 in all were in the country in the caravans.

Similar caravans have gathered regularly over the years and have generally dwindled by the time they reach the southern border.

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