As the migrant caravan of Central American refugees slowly makes its way to the U.S.-Mexico borders, a new executive order signed by President Donald Trump disqualifies immigrants without papers from seeking asylum in the U.S.
The policy is the administration’s latest attempt to crack down on asylum seekers and is set to last 90 days. Just last summer, former Attorney General Jeff Sessions issued an order for border officials to turn down applications from immigrants seeking asylum based on domestic or gang violence.
According to immigration advocates and attorneys, Trump’s new policy violates the U.S. and international law, this is an alleged violation of the U.S. Refugee Act, passed by Congress in 1980, which states that people are able to request asylum as long as they are on U.S. soil, regardless of whether they are at a port of entry, or if they entered illegally.
“In its latest attempt to upend the asylum system, the administration is slamming our door on individuals and families who are running from severe violence,” said Archi Pyati, Chief of Policy at the Tahirih Justice Center. “This cruel move will shut out many people who have left everything to find safety. There is also no reasonable justification for this new policy, despite the lengthy document provided by the White House.”
Migrants traveling from Central America are coming from one of the most dangerous regions in the world for women and children, who are often specifically targeted for rape, sex trafficking, domestic abuse, and other crimes. However, it has been a source of conspiracy theories and given Trump the resolve to further firm up the administration’s stance on immigration. Under the new policy, immigrants without papers will immediately be detained and deported. Before this new order, asylum seekers, whether or not they are documented, were offered a “credible fear” interview to ascertain whether their claims of persecution are valid. This was just the first step in a long, tedious process that could take years.
Trump is basing the policy on the same provision of the Immigration and Nationality Act he used in early 2017 to establish the travel ban affecting majority-Muslim countries. Similarly, the asylum rule will most likely to be challenged in court.
While the Trump administration hopes that the policy will stop asylum seekers from trying to make it to the U.S., Pyati said this could worsen the situation. “Families who are afraid of persecution…are not going to be deterred by a rule like this, because what they’re fleeing is so dire that it’s worth facing whatever the consequences are here in order to get away from what is there,” she said. She stressed that the Obama administration’s policies to detain and deport immigrant families seeking asylum back in 2014. The policies President Obama tried to implement resulted in outrage and did not stop the migrants from coming. Now Trump is about to make the same mistake as he threatened to cut funding for Honduras, El Salvador, and Guatemala because of the caravan. This will not deter migrants but will actually result in more refugees fleeing the affected countries.