HOUSTON (FOX 26) - President Donald Trump issued a proclamation Friday to deny asylum to migrants who enter the country illegally, tightening the border as caravans of Central Americans slowly approach the United States. The plan was immediately challenged in court.
This week's panel: Jessica Colon - Republican strategist, Nyanza Moore - progressive commentator and Houston attorney, Bob Price – Associate Editor Breitbart Texas, Tony Diaz- Chicano educator and activist, Tomaro Bell – Super Neighborhood leader, Bill King - businessman, columnist and former Kemah Mayor discuss Trump administration immigration policies.
WASHINGTON (AP) - President Donald Trump issued a proclamation Friday to deny asylum to migrants who enter the country illegally, tightening the border as caravans of Central Americans slowly approach the United States. The plan was immediately challenged in court.
Trump invoked the same powers he used last year to impose a travel ban that was upheld by the Supreme Court. The new regulations are intended to circumvent laws stating that anyone is eligible for asylum no matter how he or she enters the country. About 70,000 people per year who enter the country illegally claim asylum, officials said.
"We need people in our country, but they have to come in legally," Trump said Friday as he departed for Paris.
The American Civil Liberties Union and other legal groups swiftly sued in federal court in Northern California to block the regulations, arguing the measures were illegal.
"The president is simply trying to run roughshod over Congress's decision to provide asylum to those in danger regardless of the manner of one's entry," said ACLU attorney Lee Gelernt.
The litigation also seeks to put the new rules on hold while the case progresses.
The regulations go into effect Saturday. They would be in place for at least three months but could be extended, and don't affect people already in the country. The Justice Department said in a statement the regulations were lawful.
Trump's announcement was the latest push to enforce a hard-line stance on immigration through regulatory changes and presidential orders, bypassing Congress, which has not passed any immigration law reform. But those efforts have been largely thwarted by legal challenges and, in the case of family separations this year, stymied by a global outcry that prompted Trump to retreat.
Officials said the asylum law changes are meant to funnel migrants through official border crossings for speedy rulings instead of having them try to circumvent such crossings on the nearly 2,000-mile (3,200-kilometer) border. The U.S. Border Patrol says it apprehended more than 50,000 people crossing illegally in October, setting a new high this year, though illegal crossings are well below historical highs from previous decades.
But the busy ports of entry already have long lines and waits, forcing immigration officials to tell some migrants to turn around and come back to make their claims. Backlogs have become especially bad in recent months at crossings in California, Arizona and Texas, with some people waiting five weeks to try to claim asylum at San Diego's main crossing.
"The arrival of large numbers ... will contribute to the overloading of our immigration and asylum system and to the release of thousands ... into the interior of the United States," Trump said in the proclamation, calling it a crisis.
Administration officials said those denied asylum under the proclamation may be eligible for similar forms of protection if they fear returning to their countries, though they would be subject to a tougher threshold. Those forms of protection include "withholding of removal" - which is similar to asylum, but doesn't allow for green cards or bringing families - or protection under the United Nations Convention Against Torture.
Homeland Security officials said they were adding staffing at the border crossings to manage the expected crush, but it's not clear how migrants, specifically families, would be held as their cases are adjudicated. Family detention centers are largely at capacity. Trump has said he wanted to erect "tent cities," but nothing has been funded.
The U.S. is also working with Mexico in an effort to send some migrants back across the border. Right now, laws allow only Mexican nationals to be swiftly returned and increasingly those claiming asylum are from Central America.
Trump pushed immigration issues hard in the days leading up to Tuesday's midterm elections, railing against the caravans that are still hundreds of miles from the border.
He has made little mention of the issue since the election, but has sent troops to the border in response. As of Thursday, there were more than 5,600 U.S. troops deployed to the border mission, with about 550 actually working on the border in Texas.
Trump also suggested he'd revoke the right to citizenship for babies born to non-U.S. citizens on American soil and erect massive "tent cities" to detain migrants. Those issues were not addressed by the regulations. But Trump insisted the citizenship issue would be pushed through.
"We're signing it. We're doing it," he said.
The administration has long said immigration officials are drowning in asylum cases partly because people falsely claim asylum and then live in the U.S. with work permits. In 2017, the U.S. fielded more than 330,000 asylum claims, nearly double the number two years earlier and surpassing Germany as highest in the world.
Migrants who cross illegally are generally arrested and often seek asylum or some other form of protection. Claims have spiked in recent years and the immigration court backlog has more than doubled to 1.1 million cases in about two years, Syracuse University's Transactional Records Access Clearinghouse reported this week. Generally, only about 20 percent of applicants are approved.
It's unclear how many people en route to the U.S. will even make it to the border. Roughly 5,000 migrants - more than 1,700 under the age of 18 - sheltered in a Mexico City sports complex decided to depart Friday for the northern city of Tijuana, opting for the longer but likely safer route to the U.S. border.
Similar caravans have gathered regularly over the years and have generally dwindled by the time they reach the southern border, particularly to Tijuana. Most have passed largely unnoticed.
SAN DIEGO (AP) - President Donald Trump ordered Friday that anyone who enters the U.S. illegally from Mexico by going around official border crossings is ineligible for asylum.
His edict takes aim at the cherished principle of asylum, which grants haven to people who flee persecution on grounds of race, religion, nationality, political opinion and other factors.
Illegal border crossings are low compared to the 1980s, 1990s and 2000s but there's no question the asylum system is under severe strain.
Here are questions and answers about the new rules:
WHAT DOES THE NEW BAN DO?
The president is denying asylum to people who enter the country from Mexico without going through official border crossings, effective Saturday.
That means people can keep claiming asylum if they present themselves to U.S. authorities at any of the 26 border crossings with Mexico. But it's now banned anywhere else along the border.
For example, tens of thousands of immigrants in recent years have been showing up in the Arizona desert or crossing the Rio Grande in Texas and then turning themselves in to border agents and seeking asylum. Under the new rules, those immigrants will now face steep barriers to getting in the country - and deportation in many cases.
The government says about 70,000 people who went around official crossings in the fiscal year that ended Sept. 30 sought asylum. Another 24,000 presented themselves to U.S. inspectors.
WHY DOES THE ADMINISTRATION SAY THE ASYLUM SYSTEM IS IN CRISIS?
The United States fielded 331,700 asylum claims last year, nearly double from two years earlier and surpassing Germany as highest in the world, according to the UN Refugee Agency. Many are families and young children fleeing gangs and poverty in Guatemala, Honduras and El Salvador.
The surge has contributed to an enormous backlog in immigration courts, which is where asylum cases must be decided if the applicant passes an initial screening. The backlog has more than doubled to 1.1 million cases in about two years, Syracuse University's Transactional Records Access Clearinghouse reported this week.
Asylum seekers are often released, many with ankle monitors, while their cases wind through court for years. The Trump administration calls it "catch and release" and notes that, while about 8 of 10 asylum seekers pass the initial screening, known as a "credible fear" interview, most are ultimately unsuccessful in court.
There are many reasons why the courts are broken. Immigrant advocates point to a shortage of judges.
WILL IT WORK?
Almost immediately, the American Civil Liberties Union sued over the president's order in federal court in San Francisco, seeking to declare it invalid and stop it from going into effect while litigation is pending.
Trump is invoking the same extraordinary powers he used to ban travel to the U.S. from several predominantly Muslim countries, which was upheld by the Supreme Court in June. Under a section of federal immigration law, the president may deny entry to "any class of aliens" whose presence is deemed "detrimental to the interests of the United States."
But under the Immigration and Nationality Act, anyone can apply for asylum no matter how or where they enter the country. And the 1951 United Nations Refugee Convention, of which the U.S. is a signatory, says people may apply for asylum even if they enter a country illegally.
Administration officials argue that U.S. law already has some bars on asylum - being part of a terrorist organization or having committed a serious crime, for example - and that "withholding of removal" and protection under the U.N. Convention Against Torture.
The administration also emphasizes that people can still seek asylum at official crossings instead of entering the country illegally by going around them, but that poses logistical challenges. Asylum seekers currently wait in Mexican border cities - up to five weeks in Tijuana - because inspectors at U.S. crossings say they don't have the capacity to process their claims.
WHAT WILL HAPPEN TO THE IMMIGRANTS?
Under the new rule, immigrants caught crossing the border and seeking asylum will be transported to a nearby port of entry and denied asylum if they seek it.
They will be allowed to seek other, more limited forms of protection but the initial screening, known as a "reasonable fear" interview, is much harder to pass. And these variations of asylum - "withholding of removal" and protection under the U.N. Convention Against Torture - don't offer a path to a green card or allow for family members to come.
If they don't clear this step, immigrants will be detained and put into deportation proceedings.
But this creates other issues. There is limited jail space to detain immigrants, along with several hurdles to deport immigrants back to Central America. In addition, child immigrants seeking asylum have different sets of protections that will complicate the process even more.
And it's too early to tell if the ban will affect caravans of Central American immigrants that have drawn the wrath of the president as they slow make their way to the U.S. If they opt to show up at a port of entry like previous caravans did, then the new rules won't restrict them from seeking asylum here.