The Trump administration is crafting legislation to make it harder for refugees to gain asylum in the U.S. and loosen restrictions on detaining immigrants apprehended near the border, a senior White House official said.
Administration officials complained that border control agents can’t detain families and unaccompanied children long enough and that asylum rules are too lenient, as a caravan of Central American refugees approached the U.S. border. The officials spoke on condition of anonymity in a call to brief reporters.
President Donald Trump has complained about the caravan in tweets Sunday and Monday, as Fox News Channel discussed the event.
Any change in immigration laws would face major obstacles in Congress in an election year. Trump was unable to reach a deal earlier this year to change immigration laws in exchange for maintaining protections against deportation of young undocumented immigrants brought to the U.S. as children.
Trump said Mexico has "absolute power" to stop a caravan of Central American refugees from entering their country, a day after he threatened to pull out of the North American Free Trade Agreement over the flow of people and drugs into the U.S.
"Mexico has the absolute power not to let these large ‘Caravans’ of people enter their country," Trump said in a Twitter posting on Monday. "They must stop them at their Northern Border, which they can do because their border laws work, not allow them to pass through into our country, which has no effective border laws."
The National Immigration Institute, which is responsible for carrying out immigration policy in Mexico, didn’t immediately respond to a request for comment.
BuzzFeed reported that a "caravan" of Central American immigrants led by Pueblos Sin Fronteras, or People Without Borders, has been making its way north in a march toward the U.S. border to seek asylum.
When the migrants arrive at a port of entry, they will likely claim asylum and be detained for a few weeks or as long as a year, Pueblo Sin Fronteras project coordinator Alex Mensing told ABC News. Two caravans traveled north last year and others have made similar trips since 2010.
Trump on Monday also declared as “dead” an effort to strike a deal to assist immigrants brought to the country illegally as minors, and repeated a call for Senate Republicans to go to a simple 51-vote majority as a way to pass legislation more easily. Under the Deferred Action for Childhood Arrivals program, those eligible for protected status must have lived continuously in the U.S. since 2007 and entered the country before their 16th birthday, but Trump rescinded the program in September and gave Congress until March to strike a compromise.
“DACA is dead because the Democrats didn’t care or act, and now everyone wants to get onto the DACA bandwagon,” Trump said on Twitter. “No longer works. Must build Wall and secure our borders with proper Border legislation. Democrats want No Borders, hence drugs and crime!”
Lawmakers have been unable to strike a bargain, with the White House insisting any deal also include new restrictions on legal immigration as well as funding for the president’s border wall. Democrats rejected an offer as part of an omnibus spending package that would have given the president funding for his wall in exchange for a short-term extension of the program. A federal judge in January issued an injunction order keeping the program in place as courts consider legal challenges to the president’s bid to end DACA.
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