The Trump administration has taken extra steps to stop the inflow of Central American immigrants into the US through the southern border. A new rule passed by the White House is designed to prevent migrants who cross the border illegally from getting a chance to apply for asylum. However, it’s not clear how far the measure will go. US federal law allows anyone in US soil to seek asylum even if they cross the border illegally.
It’s very likely that the directive will be challenged in court by immigration advocacy groups. However, the White House believes that the president has enough executive power to get around the legal provision. This was the same power that was used by Trump to enforce a travel ban on a number of Muslim majority countries. The ban was blocked by US courts before it was upheld by the Supreme Court after a lot of revisions.
Judges will also face the same test with the new directive. They will have to determine whether the broader executive powers of the president can be used lawfully to exclude certain immigrants from applying for asylum.
In a nutshell, what happens if the directive conflicts with federal law? What takes priority over the other? The White House says that the aim of this new directive is to push immigrants to the legal points of entry where they can be processed by custom and border authorities. However, many experts feel that this could significantly reduce the number of people seeking asylum in the US.
Trump has never shied away from expressing his frustrations on the number of immigrants who come to the US each year, especially those that cross the border illegally from Mexico. However, recent stats show that the number is actually very small compared to the last two decades. In addition to this, border crossers are mostly women and children from Central American countries. This complicates matters for the administration.
A few years back, a majority of crossers were able-bodied men from Mexico. But now the custom and border authorities have to deal with women and children. In the past, these men could easily be turned back or deported once they crossed. But deporting migrant women and children does have bad optics and it may draw the same bipartisan criticism leveled on the president after his family separation policy.
Border officials have noted that a majority of the migrants come to the US to seek asylum. Although most are able to pass the initial screening, a majority don’t follow up after they are granted entry. Border officials say that most don’t even bother to apply for asylum once they are in. Many analysts believe that the White House’s tough stance on immigration may have played a part in the midterms where the GOP lost the House. The president called the caravan of Central American immigrant heading to the border an “invasion” many times. US troops have also been deployed to the border to prevent any illegal entry. However, some top Democratic leaders have called the deployment a political stunt.