Speaking at the White House last week, the president threatened to order the US military to shoot throwing migrants and said he intended to restrict asylum claims to those made at legal crossing points. He subsequently moved away from their threat to shoot migrants.
However, on Thursday, just days after the midterm elections during which Mr Trump had placed a crackdown on illegal immigration at the centre of his campaign, the White House announced it was pressing ahead with the plan to restrict asylum applications.
“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,” Department of Homeland Security secretary Kirstjen Nielsen and acting attorney General Matthew Whitaker said in a joint statement.
“Today, we are using the authority granted to us by congress to bar aliens who violate a presidential suspension of entry or other restriction from asylum eligibility.”
The Washington Post said the restrictions would rely on emergency powers invoked by the president to implement his “travel ban” in early 2017, according to US officials with knowledge of the plans. It is likely that a series of legal challenges seeking to delay or block the asylum restrictions will follow, just as they did in regard to his travel bans, which mostly targeted Muslim countries.
The move is the latest in a series of measures the administration has taken to try and deter thousands of migrants from Central America who are making their way through Mexico is a series of human caravans. The vast majority of the migrants are from Honduras, El Salvador and Guatemala, counties that suffer from devastating levels of violence and grinding poverty.
While the number of migrants has dropped, any where up to 7,000-10,000 people are trying to make their way to the US-Mexico border.
Ahead of the midterms, Mr Trump was criticised for a video his campaign produced that described as one of the most racist political adverts in recent years, and sought to portray migrants as police killers set to overrun the country.
The advert, which Mr Trump tweeted with the message “it is outrageous what the Democrats are doing to our country. Vote Republican now”, focussed on Luis Bracamontes, an illegal immigrant twice previously deported, who in 2014 shot and killed two California police officers, and injured a third. The advert shows Bracamontes, who has been sentenced to death, laughing in court and vowing to kill more officers. Words across the screen read: “Democrats let him into our country. Democrats let him stay.”
While several channels initially ran the video, CNN and several others refused to. In the end, Fox News, Facebook and NBC also declined to run it.
At the same time, Mr Trump dispatched thousands of troops to the southern border, where they erected fences and rolled out barbed wire along the Rio Grande.
This week, CNN reporter Jim Acosta tried to ask Mr Trump about his description of the caravan as an “invasion”, when the president shouted at him and told him to sit down. A White House intern sought to take the microphone from his hand. Mr Acosta later had his White House “hard pass” suspended.
The pro migrants rights group Human Rights First, said: “The Trump Administration published an interim final rule that would bar people who illegal cross the southern US border from claiming asylum.”
It added: “This action is a violation of our American ideals, a violation of the constitution, and it will not stand up in court.”
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