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Nov. 8, 2018 / 10:08 PM GMT / Updated 5:03 PM GMT
By Julia Ainsley
WASHINGTON — President Donald Trump fulfilled his midterm promise to crack down on undocumented immigrants crossing the Southwest border on Friday by signing a proclamation that will make it harder for immigrants to claim asylum if they are caught crossing the border between designated ports of entry.
Starting just after midnight on Saturday morning, asylum-seekers who do not go through ports of entry will be apprehended, detained and deported unless they can meet a higher bar, such as proving they would be tortured if they were sent home.
Senior administration officials told reporters on a conference call Thursday that the president has the legal authority to do so because of sections of immigration law that allow the president discretion over who is admitted into the United States — the same language the administration used to support its travel ban in court.
The officials said the goal is to force more immigrants who wish to claim asylum to do so at designated ports of entry. Recently, many asylum-seekers have chosen to cross illegally because they are kept waiting for days in Mexico due to backlogs at ports of entry.
The new restrictions will apply for 90 days, but could end earlier, officials said.
Under international law, however, asylum-seekers are permitted to make a claim regardless of where they enter.
Already, the ACLU has said it will sue.
“The proposal is patently unlawful and there will be a court challenge,” said Lee Gelernt, deputy director of the ACLU’s Immigrants’ Rights Project.
Immigrants crossing between ports of entry will still be allowed to claim asylum, but will have to prove that they meet a higher bar than a “credible fear” of returning to their home country, the current preliminary test. Under the new rule, the officials said, asylum-seekers will only be permitted to remain at large in the U.S. as they await a court hearing if they can prove “reasonable fear” or that they are protected under the U.N.’s Convention against Torture.
The full text of the new regulation can be found here.