Asylum seekers will no longer be able to wait here in this country while their claims are being processed.
Kirstjen Nielsen, the secretary of the Department of Homeland Security, announced that news on Thursday.
President Donald Trump has worked to crack down on illegal immigration since the start of his term. But a surge of asylum seekers at the southern border this past year has created legal challenges for the administration and its critics.
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The administration hopes to overcome this by making asylum seekers wait in Mexico.
“We will confront this crisis head on, uphold the rule of law, and strengthen our humanitarian commitments,” Nielsen said in a statement. “Aliens trying to game the system to get into our country illegally will no longer be able to disappear into the United States, where many skip their court dates. Instead, they will wait for an immigration court decision while they are in Mexico.”
Caravans of migrants this past year came to the border — with many people seeking asylum. The administration argues that current policies allow those who don’t have a legitimate claim to cheat the system. These individuals are often let go and asked to appear for a court date — for which they may or may not show.
“We will undertake these steps consistent with all domestic and international legal obligations, including our humanitarian commitments,” Nielsen continued in her statement.
“We have notified the Mexican government of our intended actions. In response, Mexico has made an independent determination that they will commit to implement essential measures on their side of the border.”
Trump has essentially been stuck between a rock and a hard place when it comes to asylum seekers. Federal immigration laws allow the president to suspend the entry of all aliens or any class of aliens.
But some critics claim he is beholden to international agreements to process credible asylum claims. The policy change is intended to strike a balance by processing the claims while preventing those who might want to cheat the system from being allowed to even enter.
“I think [it] is truly a groundbreaking plan to keep illegal aliens out of the United States,” Secretary of State Mike Pompeo told host Laura Ingraham on “The Laura Ingraham Show” on Thursday morning. “It is a very significant border security development. It will no longer be the case that aliens who come here remain inside the United States during the pending time of their asylum claim.”
Trump also attempted an earlier crackdown on illegal immigration that resulted in children being separated from the adults who illegally brought them into the country. Many of the illegal immigrants had children with them when asking for asylum. But that process can often take longer than the 20 days immigration officials are allowed to hold children.
“The idea of catch and release will be replaced with catch and return,” Pompeo also told Ingraham. “We expect this will result in a truly historical drop in illegal immigration because the incentive to come here, file an asylum claim, and stay in the United States during the pendency will no longer exist.”
The biggest caravan consisted of thousands of migrants who traveled to the southern border from Honduras. Trump has worked to prevent caravan members from entering the country illegally by mobilizing the military along the border and threatening to cut aid to countries that let the migrants pass through.
“We made clear to the Mexican government our intent to do this and will shortly make an announcement about how they are going to deal with those returned migrants,” Pompeo said. “They are going to offer them opportunities inside their country to protect the rights of those migrants. But they will not be in the United States during the time their asylum claim is being processed.”
Trump has faced legal challenges on nearly everything he’s tried to do on immigration; this new policy shift will likely be no different. The U.S. Supreme Court made clear the president has the power to block classes of migrants when he was sued for blocking travel from several predominantly Muslim countries this past spring. But since he isn’t blocking them outright this time, he could be beholden to restrictions.
“The Immigration and Naturalization Act, Section 235, makes clear that the president has the authority to do this,” Pompeo said. “We had a lot of thought and legal review of this and are confident we are on firm ground. We know [that] these people will be taken care of, will get more help in Mexico … [This] will solve the problem we’ve had of folks coming into the United States, claiming asylum and then disappearing into the country.”
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