US President Donald Trump has signed a proclamation that would deny asylum to migrants who enter the country illegally.
The move comes as a caravan of thousands of migrants is slowly crossing Mexico toward the United States.
"I just signed the proclamation on asylum, very important," Trump told reporters before departing the White House on Friday (November 9). "People can come in but they have to come in through the ports of entry. And that to me, is a very important thing. Again I reiterate, we need Democrats votes. They have to pass new immigration laws because they're flooding our country. We're not letting them in, but they're trying to flood our country. We need the wall, we're building the wall, but we need it all built at one time and quickly".
The United Nations refugee agency said the US must make sure anyone seeking refugee protection or needing humanitarian assistance can get both promptly and "without obstruction."
"For now, the policy is being reviewed by legal colleagues," UNHCR spokesman Babar Baloch said on Friday. "I understand it is a lengthy document. It needs to be carefully reviewed to come up as a response on it. I hope we will soon be coming out with something on this".
Legal groups immediately sued in federal court, seeking an injunction against the regulations, which go into effect on Saturday (November 10). Currently, migrants who enter the US illegally can claim asylum but those who cross at official entry points can wait for days before being allowed entry. Rights groups say the Trump administration has deliberately slowed the processing of migrants at official ports.