The Trump administration has announced that people who enter the United States illegally will no longer be able to claim asylum.
The rule, as outlined by administration officials on a briefing call, is meant to crack down on people who jump the border illegally and then subsequently make asylum claims.
The regulations released Thursday, in conjunction with an order expected to be signed by President Donald Trump, would effectively ban migrants who cross the US border with Mexico illegally from qualifying for asylum.
The Trump administration has already made it more hard for migrants to qualify for asylum in the United States. Claims have spiked in recent years, and there is a backlog of more than 800,000 cases pending in immigration court, with a wait time that can be almost two years. Generally, only about 20 percent of applicants are approved.
In June, then-attorney general Jeff Sessions issued an appellate decision that sharply narrowed the circumstances under which immigrants could use violence at home as grounds for USA asylum.
Administration officials said those denied asylum under the proclamation may be eligible for similar forms of protection if they fear returning to their countries, though they would be subject to a tougher threshold.
President Donald Trump has blamed US asylum rules for luring thousands of migrants a year from Central American countries. These migrants likely find work in the US and live as illegal aliens. Those issues were not addressed by the regulations. U.S law states that any individual can seek asylum, whether or not they are at an official point of entry.
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Mr Trump invoked the same powers he used to impose a travel ban on Muslims that was upheld by the Supreme Court in June.
Asylum seekers turn themselves in to a US Border Patrol agent after crossing from Mexico into the United States.
But US officials said that as Mexico is the first safe country US-bound migrants from Guatemala, El Salvador and Honduras arrive in, the asylum claims should be presented there. The Immigration and Nationality Act (INA 208 (b)(2)(C)) unambiguously states that ineligibility grounds for asylum established by regulation must be "consistent with" section 208 of the INA, which explicitly says that aliens may lodge asylum claims "not at a designated port of entry".
The latest crackdown on illegal immigration is expected to be challenged in the courts by civil liberties groups, who argue that anyone who reaches USA soil is entitled to make an asylum claim.
"There are multiple responsibilities at a port of entry and you can't simply move all of your resources to migrant processing", said one border official.
Officials have turned away asylum seekers at border crossings because of overcrowding, telling them to return later.