Spencer Platt / Getty Images
The Trump administration is taking steps to stem the flow of Central American migrants crossing the US border from Mexico.
The administration issued a new rule on Thursday to prohibit migrants crossing the border outside designated entry points to seek asylum in the United States.
The measure is almost certain to meet legal challenges. Advocates say that federal law allows anyone on US soil to petition for asylum, even if that person has crossed the border illegally.
The administration wants to circumvent this provision by using the president's broad authority to exclude any immigrant – or class of immigrants – deemed "detrimental to US interests". This is the same authority used by the president when he issued a ban on travel on a variety of mostly Muslim countries. This ban was initially blocked by the courts, but after several revisions it was finally confirmed by the US Supreme Court.
The new measure is designed to channel asylum seekers to official entry ports, where the administration states that their requests could be processed more efficiently. The move could also drastically limit the number of people admitted to the United States.
The president has long been frustrated by the number of immigrants who illegally cross the border from Mexico. Although the overall numbers are well below what was at their peak in the late 1990s and early 2000s, today's border crossings are more likely to be families and children. of Central America. For legal reasons, they are harder to expel than single adults from Mexico who have formed most of the border crossings a generation ago.
Andrew Cullen / AFP / Getty Images
Many of the Central American migrants seek asylum once they arrive in the United States, claiming the fear of persecution if they return home. Administration officials say that while most asylum seekers pass the initial screening test, many never submit an asylum application or do not present themselves for a planned asylum hearing. Less than 1 in 10 actually complies with the standards for asylum.
In recent weeks, Trump has issued terrible warnings about a "caravan" of migrants from Honduras and other Central American nations, who are slowly making their way across Mexico to the border. He ordered thousands of military troops on active duty to support border security officers.