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Abu Dhabi, UAEFriday 16 November 2018

Trump administration moves to suspend asylum for those who cross illegally

Statement by Justice Department precedes a proclamation by Donald Trump on Friday

US President Donald Trump is expected to sign a proclamation on the matter on Friday. AFP
US President Donald Trump is expected to sign a proclamation on the matter on Friday. AFP

The US Departments of Justice and Homeland Security announced an “Interim Final Rule” on Thursday that would block those crossing the southern border with Mexico from seeking asylum in the United States.

Acting Attorney General Matthew Whitaker and Secretary of Homeland Security Secretary Kirstjen Nielsen made a joint statement announcing the change on Thursday. It said “those aliens who contravene a presidential suspension or limitation on entry into the United States through the southern border with Mexico... will be rendered ineligible for asylum.”

"“Our asylum system is overwhelmed with too many merit-less 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,” the statement read.

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The new rule would be made effective after US President Donald Trump signs a proclamation, which he is expected to do on Friday.

The rule, which NBC was the first to report, is a change to federal law which currently allows migrants to seek asylum whether they do it at the port of entry or after illegally entering the country. The new rule, however, would deport those who request it after entering the US illegally. While such change can be challenged in US courts, the Trump administration will feel confident if the issue end up with the US Supreme Court, where conservative judges hold a 5 - 4 majority.

The number of asylum seekers in the US has jumped from 5,000 in 2008 to 97,000 in 2018. The Trump administration is seeking to deter crossings at the border in order to lower this number. The new rule also comes as a caravan transporting around 7000 people, many of them refugees from South American countries, is approaching the US border. Mr Trump has pledged to stop those on the caravan from entering the United States, calling it “an invasion” and dispatching 5,200 troops to the border.