White House

Trump extends order on asylum seekers at southwest border

The order bars migrants who arrive outside points of entry at the U.S.-Mexico border from requesting asylum

President Donald Trump delivered the State of the Union address, with Vice President Mike Pence and Speaker of the House Nancy Pelosi, at the Capitol in Washington, DC on Feb. 5, 2019. (Doug Mills/The New York Times)

President Donald Trump issued a proclamation Thursday evening that extends for 90 days his November order barring migrants who arrive outside points of entry at the U.S. Mexico border from requesting asylum. The courts have blocked implementation of the first order.

In his new proclamation, Trump declared that the U.S. immigration and asylum system remains “in a crisis as a consequence of the mass migration of aliens across the border between the United States and Mexico.”

He also raised the specter, again, of caravans of migrants approaching the border as part of the crisis.

“The problem of large numbers of aliens traveling through Mexico to enter our country unlawfully or without proper documentation has not materially improved, and indeed in several respects has worsened, since November 9, 2018,” Trump wrote. “An average of approximately 2,000 inadmissible aliens continue to enter the United States each day at our southern border. And large, organized groups of aliens continue to travel through Mexico towards the United States with the reported intention to enter the United States unlawfully or without proper documentation.”

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Trump first issued an executive order on Nov. 9 that blocked migrants from requesting asylum if they entered the U.S. illegally between ports of entry. Under current law, U.S. authorities must consider asylum requests regardless of how an individual entered the U.S.

Shortly after he issued the asylum ban, a California federal judge blocked the administration from carrying out the order after several civil rights groups filed a lawsuit against it. Then in December, the Supreme Court upheld the federal judge’s decision to block the Trump administration from implementing the new asylum restrictions.

In the new proclamation, Trump said the government is appealing the injunction.

“As President, I must act to protect the national interest, and to maintain an effectively functioning asylum system for legitimate asylum seekers who demonstrate that they have fled persecution and warrant the many special benefits associated with being granted asylum,” Trump said.

Advocacy groups have contended that the asylum ban infringes upon the civil rights of asylum seekers and that Trump cannot suspend federal rules on his own without an act of Congress.

“The Trump administration has issued this extension of its draconian asylum ban, but the ban remains illegal and is still blocked by the courts,” Lee Gelernt, deputy director of the American Civil Liberties Union’s Immigrants’ Rights Project, said in a statement.

The Trump administration has long claimed that there is a “humanitarian crisis” at the southern border because of the high numbers of family units arriving at the U.S.-Mexico border and has tried to redefine asylum rules and change other policies to deter migrants from coming to the border.

Department of Homeland Security data show that although border apprehensions have been on a steady decline for nearly 20 years, the number of families trying to enter from El Salvador, Guatemala and Honduras has increased under Trump and in the final two years of the Obama administration.

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