Donald Trump takes huge step in crackdown on asylum for migrants at US-Mexico border

Donald Trump’s administration has pressed ahead with a controversial plan to limit the rights of migrants seeking asylum at the US-Mexico border.

The administration took the major step by putting forward a regulation that makes people ineligible for asylum if they cross the southern border illegally.

Once the plan goes into full effect, which is expected to happen in coming days, migrants would only be eligible for asylum if they come to official ports of entry.

“What we are attempting to do is trying to funnel … asylum claims through the ports of entry where we are better resourced, have better capabilities and better manpower and staffing to actually handle those claims in an expeditious and efficient manner,” a senior administration official told reporters on Thursday.

It comes after the president last week unveiled plans to construct “massive cities of tents” in a bid to end the so-called “catch and release” of immigrants at the border.

The new regulation would largely affect migrants from Central America’s Northern Triangle – Guatemala, Honduras and El Salvador – who cross the US border with Mexico to flee violence and poverty in their home countries.

“The vast majority of aliens who enter illegally today come from the Northern Triangle countries, and large portions of those aliens assert a credible fear,” the regulation’s text reads.

“Channelling those aliens to ports of entry would encourage these aliens to first avail themselves of offers of asylum from Mexico.”

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Immigrant advocates quickly denounced the administration’s move.

“US law specifically allows individuals to apply for asylum whether or not they are at a port of entry,” said Omar Jadwat, director of the American Civil Liberties Union’s Immigrants’ Rights Project. 

“It is illegal to circumvent that by agency or presidential decree.” 

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