White House Weighs Dramatic Changes to Asylum Laws

Migrants cross the river at the Mexico-U.S. border after pushing past a line of Mexican police at the Chaparral crossing in Tijuana, Mexico, Sunday, Nov. 25, 2018 (AP Photo/Ramon Espinosa)

In a move sure to rile the open borders crowd, the White House is readying what Donald Trump is calling a “very dramatic” proposal on US asylum policy.


“It will be a statement having to do with the border and having to do with people illegally coming over the border,” he said. “And it will be my biggest statement, so far, on the border.”


President Donald Trump is considering sweeping restrictions on asylum that would effectively block Central American migrants from entering the U.S., according to several administration officials and advocates briefed on the plan.

A draft proposal circulating among Trump’s Homeland Security advisers would prohibit migrants from seeking asylum if they have resided in a country other than their own before coming to the U.S., according to a DHS official and an outside advocate familiar with the plan.

If executed, it would deny asylum to thousands of migrants waiting just south of the border, many of whom have trekked a perilous journey through Mexico.

Most nations have strict laws governing the asylum process where migrants applying for asylum must have their claims registered in the first country they arrive in. Current U.S. policy allows for an exemption to this rule, meaning tens of thousands of migrants who are currently stuck in Mexico would probably be ineligible if Trump’s policy is enacted.

“It’s unbelievably extreme to try to inhibit anyone who comes through another country in their quest for asylum,” said Kerri Talbot, the federal advocacy director for Immigration Hub, an advocacy group for migrants. “It basically means it would block all Central Americans from coming to the U.S.”

There is nothing “unbelievably extreme” about a policy adopted in many other nations, including the entire European Union. You can measure the effectiveness of a proposed change in immigration policy by the level of outrage coming from extremists.


Like every other policy ever proposed or enacted by the Trump administration, court action is being threatened. The White House is seeking to head off these challenges by getting Congress to consider legislation.

While Trump aides believe they can make the changes through an administrative rule, they are also seeking a legislative fix that would be far less vulnerable to a court challenge. Similar language is included in Trump’s emerging immigration bill that boosts security at the southern border and pushes the nation to admit more high-skilled, well-educated immigrants, rather than immigrants who enter the U.S. based on family ties, according to two people familiar with the proposal.

With Democrats in control of the House, we shouldn’t hold our breath that Congress will act anytime soon.

This is a common sense approach to the asylum problem. There must be order at the border, which includes the orderly processing of people who are genuinely in need of asylum. Those looking for employment or more generous government benefits are free to apply for legal immigration to the U.S. in their home countries.



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