President Trump said that he plans to sign a new executive order next week that will restrict asylum rules. He wants leverage on a migrant caravan from Central America heading to the US border to score some points in the upcoming midterms. In a speech at the White House, Trump also revealed that US troops that have been deployed at the border are authorized to shoot if the asylum seekers throw stones at them.
The speech was seen by many analysts as a last ditch effort to try to rally the Republican base on immigration. It features some of the common talking points that we have heard already including tough talk and very little plan of action. One of the key announcements though was on the restriction of asylum. The White House noted that it’s already working on a broad executive action that will make it harder for people to seek and get asylum in the US.
The president claimed without evidence that for too long migrants have abused the US asylum system by fabricating their persecution. But it’s legal under US federal law and international law for migrants to seek asylum in the country at the legal points of entry. This has been the plan all along by the migrant caravan. However, US defense officials have played down the president’s call for deadly force when dealing with migrants. One official who spoke to CNN noted that the military personnel deployed at the border will only use deadly force if there’s credible threat to their lives.
The official also said that standard rules of engagement will apply in the operation. The Department of Defense added that the soldiers will only be providing support for Homeland Security and Customs and Border Patrol as they perform their law enforcement activities. They are not expected to come into any contact with the migrants at any point. In the event they do, the soldiers have been adequately trained on how to deal with the situation within the law.
The plan to restrict asylum comes a few days before the heated midterm election. The president has really made the topic of immigration one of his key messages on the run-up to the polls. The hope according to many analysts is that such rhetoric could drum up enthusiasm among Republicans which may translate to a high turnout in the elections. Despite this, the White House didn’t provide any concrete plan or proposal that will be used in dealing with the asylum issue.
US Federal Law is very clear on asylum. The Immigration Act clearly states that anyone who arrives in the US may request asylum if they have reasonable proof of persecution on account of race, nationality, and religion. Requests for asylum are normally processed by immigration courts under the Justice Department but the president feels that this is not acceptable. At one point, Trump called on asylum seekers to be turned back at the points of entry without due process.