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Where The Trump Administration's Immigration Policy Stands Now

In this July 8, 2019, photo, a U.S. Immigration and Customs Enforcement (ICE) officers detain a man during an operation in Escondido, Calif. (Gregory Bull/AP)
In this July 8, 2019, photo, a U.S. Immigration and Customs Enforcement (ICE) officers detain a man during an operation in Escondido, Calif. (Gregory Bull/AP)

With Meghna Chakrabarti

The Supreme Court hands the Trump Administration a win on the border wall. ICE gets expanded power to deport undocumented immigrants without a hearing. We have the latest on the administration’s immigration policy.


Alan Gomez, immigration reporter for USA Today. (@alangomez)

Ur Jaddou, chief counsel of U.S. Citizenship and Immigration Services, a component of the Department of Homeland Security, from 2014 to 2017. Former chief counsel to the Subcommittee on Immigration and Border Security in the U.S. House of Representatives. Director of Department of Homeland Security Watch for America’s Voice, an immigrant advocacy group. (@UrJaddou)

John Daniel Davidson, Immigration and border policy expert for Texas Public Policy Foundation, a free-enterprise research institute. Senior correspondent at The Federalist. (@johnddavidson)

Interview Highlights

On the significance of the Trump administration’s new policy on asylum

Alan Gomez: “This is the latest, but by far the biggest, proposed change that the Trump administration has put forward. They’ve been flooded with all these migrants coming from mostly Central America, requesting asylum at the U.S. border … So what we’ve seen over the past couple of years is the administration try all different kinds of approaches to try to limit that. … This other one they just brought out is even bigger than [any past policy]. It would effectively block asylum for over 90 percent of people making claims.

“It makes the argument that you cannot apply for asylum in the U.S. unless if you cross through a third country, and didn’t request asylum there. So if you’re from Guatemala, and you pass through Mexico, you have to request asylum in Mexico, and be denied, before you can request asylum in the United States. If you’re from Honduras or El Salvador, and you cross into Guatemala, you have to request asylum there first.

“And the argument is this all goes back to this idea of being a ‘safe third country.’ That if a migrant passes through a ‘safe third country’ they should request asylum there first, before reaching the United States. Attorney General William Barr described these folks who just come straight to the United States as forum shopping.’ But, the other side of that is a lot of questions about the safety of seeking asylum in Mexico for these Central Americans. Guatemala remains one of the most dangerous countries in the world, despite improvements there over the past decade.”

John Daniel Davidson: “It’s not an actual solution, but it does identify the problem. And the problem right now is that the courts are overwhelmed. And the fact that the courts are overwhelmed, and that it takes years and years for asylum cases to be adjudicated, is itself a major incentive for people to seek asylum in the U.S., where they can get authorization to work, and send money home or reunite with family members. It’s important to understand the full context here.

“Everybody who’s apprehended at the border, essentially, between ports of entry, is subject to expedited removal. And the families from Central America, and the unaccompanied minors that are coming across, are all subject to expedited

removal. And what is happening is that they are claiming asylum, and they claim asylum as a defense against removal. And they’re given a credible fear interview. The vast majority of them pass that credible fear interview and then can pursue an asylum claim. And that begins a process that can take years. And I think what [acting Director of the Citizenship and Immigration Services Ken] Cuccinelli and others in the Trump administration are trying to get at … is that the system itself, because of the backlog, has created incentive for people to seek asylum in the United States, who might not otherwise actually have valid asylum claims.”

Roughly 50,000 immigrants in 2004 went through the expedited deportation process and were removed from the country.

That number in 2013 jumped to 193,000 under the Obama administration, and that was what 45% of the total number of people deported went through this expedited process.

Those are people caught within two weeks of crossing over, and within 100 miles of the border. In other words, those are recent border crossers.

How much more will the Trump administration’s grow these numbers?

Gomez: “I’ve seen estimates of over 350,000 additional undocumented immigrants, who were living in places like Nebraska and Kansas, and in places that are that far from the border, will now be exposed. And that’s the difference. It’s one thing to catch somebody — if a border patrol agent catches somebody jumping over the wall, you bring them in — but it’s quite another thing for an ICE agent to encounter somebody in Kansas, and on their own, determine when that person arrived in this country, whether they’re here legally, whether they have any claim to asylum, whether they have any kind of claim to any other relief. And it’ll be up to that ICE agent, on their own, without any judge, without any ability to appeal, to make the decision.”

Ur Jaddou: “There is a reason why we have due process [and there are] dangers of not ensuring proper due process in the removal of someone inside the United States. We’ve heard the stories of U.S. citizens being locked up in ICE detention. There is the recent one of Francisco Galicia, who spent about more than three weeks in ICE detention trying to sort out … the confusion between ICE, and this individual, and his family. And he’s not an isolated incident. There have been, since 2012, about 1,500 people, who, after investigating citizenship claims, through ICE, were released. And so this expedited removal expansion, if we already have those numbers at that level, this greatly expanded expedited removal will only increase that number by large numbers. And that is what concerns me most.”

On the lack of funding and resources for the U.S. immigration system

Davidson: “All of these changes are sort of Band-Aids to try to deal with a very uncomfortable reality. And that is our entire asylum system and our immigration system is not set up to deal with what’s happening right now. Just like our border facilities on the actual border are not set up to house families and

children. They were set up to deal with single men coming across from Mexico. Our asylum system is not really equipped to deal with the numbers of people seeking asylum right now. You have nearly a million case backlog right now, and wait times of two years or more.”

Jaddou: “I would agree that our system does not have the proper resources, at the moment, to address the challenges at the border … There are a little less than 400 immigration judges to deal with all the cases coming before them. But this is not a new problem. We have had this issue for many, many years now. The courts have been underfunded, and they have been volleyed back and forth with regard to the authorities. They have to handle their own dockets and to greatly create efficiencies, that at the same time creating efficiency, also protect due process. And that is a problem that lies with funding. We need to fund more immigration judges, more staff support for those judges, and the process would move through much smoother, in addition to ensuring that people that are going through the system understand what they’re going through. They need legal assistance. And the process would be much more efficient for everybody involved and would save quite a bit for the government.”

From The Reading List

Wall Street Journal: “Trump Scores Two Victories on Border” — “President Trump won two victories on his border agenda Friday, with the Supreme Court allowing the use of military funds to expand the barrier on the Mexican border while Guatemala agreed to serve as gatekeeper for asylum seekers trying to get to the U.S.

“In a 5-4 decision, the justices of the U.S. high court said President Trump can shift about $2.5 billion in military funds to construct an additional 100 miles of wall at the U.S.-Mexico border in an effort to seal off the U.S. from illegal immigration.

“In February, Mr. Trump had declared a national emergency in order to divert a total of $6.7 billion from military and other sources, without the approval of Congress, which had signaled willingness to give him far less. Lower courts had barred the transfer of some of the funds desired by the president, but the Supreme Court on Friday ordered those lower court rulings to be suspended.

“‘Wow! Big VICTORY on the Wall,’ Mr. Trump wrote on Twitter. ‘The United States Supreme Court overturns lower court injunction, allows Southern Border Wall to proceed. Big WIN for Border Security and the Rule of Law.’

“Separately, under pressure from the Trump administration, Guatemala agreed to require migrants traveling through it to the U.S. to seek asylum there instead of at the U.S.-Mexico border.”

CBS News: “ICE gets expanded power to swiftly deport more undocumented immigrants” — “The Trump administration is moving to significantly expand the number of undocumented immigrants who can be deported swiftly without a hearing in immigration court.

“The Department of Homeland Security (DHS), which oversees the Immigration and Customs Enforcement (ICE) agents who remove people from the country, announced on Monday that it will now apply the practice of expedited removal — a fast-tracked deportation process — to undocumented immigrants across the country who fail to demonstrate they’ve been residing in the U.S. continuously for two years or more.

“The change represents a dramatic shift in the way expedited removals have been applied in the past. Previously, immigrants who fell into two categories were subject to expedited deportation: border-crossing migrants who authorities encountered within 100 miles of either border who had been in the U.S. for less than two weeks, and undocumented immigrants anywhere in country who came by sea and lived in the U.S. for less than two years.”

BuzzFeed News: “The Trump Administration Is Readying Plans To Deny Asylum To Central Americans And Speed Up Deportations” — “The Trump administration is readying two policies that could dramatically reshape the immigration system — both within the US and at the border — by speeding up deportations inside the country and denying asylum to immigrants who traveled through Mexico to the southern border, according to multiple sources close to the administration.

“The policies, if implemented, would come in the form of regulatory changes — one an interim final rule and the other a notice — and become the latest in a series of attempts by the Trump administration to not only deter asylum-seekers from reaching the border but to increase deportations of unauthorized immigrants within the US.

“‘It’s a fundamental change in the way the immigration components will be doing their work,’ said Ur Jaddou, former chief counsel of US Citizenship and Immigration Services.

“Multiple sources close to the administration confirmed the plans were being actively considered. It’s unclear when the policies could be introduced — or whether they ultimately will be — but those close to the administration believe the changes could come soon.”

Washington Post: “Guatemala’s migrant pact with the U.S. threatens to unleash a political crisis” — “In pressuring Guatemala to accept a deal to absorb vast numbers of asylum seekers, the Trump administration has embarked on a dramatic and risky strategy to slash the number of Central Americans flooding the U.S. border.

“The accord — which was negotiated in secret and signed at the White House on Friday — could plunge Guatemala’s young democracy into a constitutional crisis, analysts warn. It could also saddle one of the hemisphere’s poorest countries with tens of thousands of Salvadoran and Honduran migrants who would be barred from making their claims in the United States.

“The agreement is one of the boldest steps yet taken by President Trump to stanch the flow of migrants to the U.S. border. It aims to close off the U.S. asylum system to the migrants who have crossed through Guatemala en route to the United States. They would instead have to seek protection in Guatemala.”

Grace Tatter produced this hour for broadcast.

This article was originally published on WBUR.org.

Copyright 2021 NPR. To see more, visit https://www.npr.org.