President Donald Trump moved Friday to restrict asylum claims by people who illegally cross the U.S. border with Mexico, as he seeks to choke off migration from Latin America.
The new policy begins at 12:01 a.m. Saturday and covers anyone who crosses the southern border outside official entry points, said a Homeland Security official who briefed reporters on condition of anonymity.
The change to asylum procedures was published Thursday by the Justice Department and invoked by a proclamation Trump signed Friday morning. Trump announced the change as he departed the White House Friday for a trip to Paris to commemorate the 100th anniversary of World War I.
The president has blamed U.S. asylum rules for luring thousands of migrants a year from Central American countries. The new rule is almost certain to be challenged in courts.
Under the rule, migrants seeking asylum will have to make their claims at official ports of entry on the border. There, “they would be processed in a controlled, orderly, and lawful manner,” according to the rule.
According to U.S. law, any migrant who enters the country “whether or not at a designated port of arrival” can apply for asylum. The administration believes it can modify that with its new rule. Many migrants who cross the border with Mexico illegally — especially children and families — present themselves to Customs and Border Patrol officers as soon as they can and claim asylum.
People who claim asylum are now interviewed by U.S. officials to assess whether they have a “credible fear” of being returned to their home countries. If so, they are placed in immigration proceedings. Most are released with orders to appear in court later, a procedure Trump has belittled as “catch and release.”
Under the new rule, the “credible fear” interviews would be preceded by determinations of whether Trump’s proclamation applies to migrants caught crossing the border. If so, they would have to meet a higher standard to apply for asylum, showing “a reasonable fear of persecution or torture” in order to avoid deportation.