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Trump Demands Massive Changes to Federal Asylum System

Protesting Trump Immigration Policies at the US Embassy
Protesting Trump Immigration Policies at the US Embassy (Photo: Beatrice Murch)

“Our immigration system has reached a breaking point as we continue to see an overwhelming surge of migrants, with more than 100,000 arriving at our border in March alone.”

In a presidential memorandum signed Monday, Trump proposed dramatic changes to the U.S. asylum system which has recently seen increased use by Central American individuals and families.

The President proposed that asylum seekers should pay a fee to begin their case, with no assurance that the asylum will be granted. He did not specify the amount.

President Trump attends a briefing about illegal immigration and illicit drug smuggling with U.S. Customs and Border Protection Commissioner Kevin McAleenan at CBP’s National Targeting Center in Sterling, Virginia, Feb. 2. DHS photo by Jetta Disco

President Trump attends a briefing about illegal immigration and illicit drug smuggling with U.S. Customs and Border Protection Commissioner Kevin McAleenan at CBP’s National Targeting Center in Sterling, Virginia, Feb. 2. (DHS photo: Jetta Disco)

Many of those who reach the U.S.-Mexico border have fled from monetary extortion at home. During their travels, some are intercepted by portions of the Mexican cartels who extort them for payment and smuggle them dangerously across the Sonoran desert.

Once they reach Border Patrol on U.S. soil, many seek safety from persecution in Central American countries such as Honduras and Guatemala by requesting asylum protection under federal and international law. Many of those accompanied by children pass through detainment in under a week, and are released via nonprofit organizations to stay with sponsors in the U.S. while their asylum cases are pending.

“Our immigration system has reached a breaking point as we continue to see an overwhelming surge of migrants, with more than 100,000 arriving at our border in March alone,” a White House memo referring to the memorandum states. “As a result of loopholes in United States immigration law, migrants claiming fear are often released into communities across the United States, where they often remain indefinitely.”

Many migrants requesting asylum in 2019 have traveled to the border with children. Photo by Jenna Mulligan

Many migrants requesting asylum in 2019 have traveled to the border with children. (Photo: Jenna Mulligan)

Others are sent back to border cities of Mexico to rely on shelter systems as they navigate monthly appointments with immigration courts in the U.S., a strategy enforced under the “Remain in Mexico” policy.

Only about 12 percent of migrants seeking asylum are awarded it, according to the White House. But with recent flooding of the asylum courts, cases are expected to proceed for a year or more before reaching adjudication.

Trump Pushes For Faster Asylum Processing Times

In his recently announced overhaul, Trump also emphasized that the processing period of any case should take no more than 180 days before a final verdict is reached. The current delays are considered causal to what Trump referred to as “rampant abuse” of the asylum system.

Trump challenged his new attorney general William Barr, acting Secretary of the Department of Homeland Security Kevin McAleenan, and the straining border units of Immigration and Customs Enforcement to build the tactics to implement these directions within 90 days.

The president’s hard line on immigration is a central focus of his re-election campaign, which puts pressure on newly appointed McAleenan. Despite his experience as a Border Patrol commissioner and his rapport with Democratic lawmakers, many have questioned if his tactics will be bold enough to receive approval from President Trump, who pushed the former DHS Secretary Kirstjen Nielsen to resign.

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