The administration issued a new policy Thursday that would give President Trump power to block asylum claims from the migrant caravan and other illegal immigrants who jump the U.S. -Mexico border.
The rule, which prevents migrants from claiming asylum if they do not do so at an official border crossing, is the latest attempt by the White House to handle a surge in migration to the US from the Central American countries of Guatemala, Honduras and El Salvador. The goal of the new policy, according to a document the administration posted Thursday, is to push migrants toward official ports of entry where they can be processed in a "controlled, orderly, and lawful manner".
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.
Drawing on national security powers, the Departments of Homeland Security and Justice issued a fast-track rule barring immigrants from seeking asylum if they first enter the USA illegally.
Many of these immigrants in the past have sought asylum citing a "credible fear" of harm having already committed other offenses, such as entering the country illegally.
The regulations will be incorporated in a proclamation expected to be issued Friday by President Donald Trump. "It is illegal to circumvent that by agency or presidential decree", Omar Jadwat, director of the American Civil Liberties Rights Project, said.
"Our asylum system is overwhelmed with too many meritless asylum claims from aliens who place a tremendous burden on our resources, preventing us from being able to expeditiously grant asylum to those who truly deserve it", Whitaker said. The military is expected to have the vast majority of the more than 7,000 troops planned for the mission deployed by Monday, and that number could grow.
Trump has long said those seeking asylum should come through legal ports of entry. However, Trump's focus on the issue during campaigning for Tuesday's hotly contested midterm congressional elections was criticized as veering into immigrant-bashing and even racism.
He called a current caravan, which is still hundreds of miles from the U.S. border and dwindling in numbers, an "invasion" and said it would bring hardened criminals to U.S. streets.
Administration officials have said existing USA asylum rules encourage illegal immigration and bog down legitimate claims.
Less than 10 per cent of cases result in asylum being granted, the government says.
Last week, he said he would be taking steps to limit asylum claims.
In 2018, border patrols have registered more than 400,000 illegal border crossers, homeland security said.
In 2017, the USA fielded more than 330,000 asylum claims, almost double the number two years earlier and surpassing Germany as highest in the world.