Donald Trump’s proposal to ban asylum for certain undocumented immigrants has been attacked as “illegal” by human rights groups who say that asylum is a “lifeline” for those fleeing danger.
Under the new measures, which the White House announced Thursday, undocumented immigrants arriving at the nation’s borders between ports of entry would no longer be able to legally apply for asylum. The move reportedly relies on emergency powers the president had previously invoked through the implementation of his “travel ban” last year.
However, in a statement shortly after news broke of the policy shift, one of America’s biggest civil rights groups, the American Civil Liberties Union (ACLU) said, “US law specifically allows individuals to apply for asylum whether or not they are at a port of entry.”
The civil rights group added, “It is illegal to circumvent that — by agency or presidential decree.”
Mr Trump railed against undocumented immigration along the US-Mexico border since the start of his presidential campaign.
He recently proposed a slate of hardline policies to deal with the issue, including revoking the nation’s amendment-protected practice of providing birthright citizenship. The president has also called for housing immigrants in “tent cities”
On Friday, the president told reporters he had signed the directive to revamp the asylum process, effectively barring undocumented immigrants who cross the border illegally from applying for asylum.
Current law provides a year for migrants who have illegally crossed the border to apply for asylum, however, under the new orders migrants are required to go directly to a port of entry along the border in order to apply.
Human rights group Amnesty International also rejected the new measures and claimed it “needlessly places the lives of thousands of people in danger.”
“Asylum is not a loophole, it is a lifeline,” Secretary General Kumi Naidoo said.
The White House has defended the new measures, claiming the policy will make it safer for migrants who attempt to cross the geographically arduous border.
“Today, we are using the authority granted to us by Congress to bar aliens who violate a Presidential suspension of entry or other restriction from asylum eligibility,” Acting Attorney General Matthew Whitaker and Homeland Security Secretary Kirstjen Nielsen said in a joint statement Thursday.