The Trump administration’s asylum policy is prompting more migrants to try their luck at crossing illegally rather than seeking out legal ports of entry, Customs and Border Protection data suggest.
The proportion of foreign nationals attempting to cross the border illegally rather than reporting to legal ports of entry has risen in the past year, according to the data. Those crossing illegally made up 73 percent of all border crossings from October 2017 to January 2018 and then rose to 83 percent for the same period of time ending in Jan. 31, 2019, NBC News reported Friday.
At the same time, the percentage of foreign nationals intentionally reaching out to border enforcement establishments dropped from 27 percent to 17 percent.
The new numbers come in the wake of President Donald Trump’s “Remain in Mexico” policy. The policy enacted in December 2018 dictates that foreign nationals who seek asylum at the southern border cannot enter the U.S. and must remain in Mexico while their case makes it through the immigration courts — a process that could take months to years.
The directive does not apply to children or Mexican asylum seekers. It largely targets the dramatic influx of Central American migrants who have tried to enter into the country through the U.S.-Mexico border. Immigrant rights advocates are attempting to fight the policy in court.
The Department of Homeland Security argues that migrants who are abandoning asylum claims likely don’t have a strong case anyways.
“The fact that illegitimate asylum seekers may be abandoning efforts at our [ports of entry] means that legitimate asylum seekers at the [ports of entry] can receive protections far more quickly — which has been our goal from the start,” a DHS official said to NBC News.
It has been largely noted by immigration hawks that migrants abuse asylum procedures. Many of them, after claiming asylum and entering the U.S., never show up to their court dates and simply disappear within the country’s borders.
“Remember, the problem right now isn’t people crossing the border illegally. It’s people presenting themselves to border patrol agents – people who want to get apprehended – so they can lodge a frivolous asylum claim,” RJ Hauman, a spokesman for Federation for American Immigration Reform (FAIR), said to The Daily Caller News Foundation in February. “They know we don’t have the detention space so we just release them into the interior of the country.”
Democrats and immigration rights groups have hammered Trump for declaring a crisis on the border. However, Border Patrol Chief Carla Provost testified to Congress that the inpouring of Central American families and unaccompanied children has stretched her agency to the breaking point. Unlike Mexican or Canadian nationals, who can be quickly deported, foreigners from other countries cannot be removed as easily.
“Each day, nearly 25 percent of my agents are diverted away from our border security mission to care for, transport and process family members and unaccompanied children,” Provost told a House committee Tuesday. “We know that when agents are occupied, narcotics smugglers, criminal aliens, gang members and others use the opportunity to violate our borders and our laws.”
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