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US judge: 'President may not rewrite immigration laws'

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U.S. Customs and Border Protection officer on Mexico- Texas border
U.S. Customs and Border Protection officer on Mexico- Texas border
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US District Judge Jon Tigar has blocked President Donald Trump’s proposal to refuse asylum to immigrants who cross the Mexican border illegally.

Trump issued a proclamation on November 9, stating that anyone who crossed the southern border between official ports of entry would be ineligible for asylum.

“Our asylum system is broken, and it is being abused by tens of thousands of meritless claims every year. As the Supreme Court affirmed this summer, Congress has given the president broad authority to limit or even stop the entry of aliens into this country,” Department of Homeland Secuirty (DHS) spokeswoman Katie Waldman and US Department of Justice (DOJ) spokesman Steven Stafford told Euronews.

Trump has said an asylum ban was necessary to stop what he’s dubbed a national security threat.

However, Tigar’s ruling was in line with current US immigration law, which allows anyone to seek asylum even if they enter the country illegally.

“Whatever the scope of the president’s authority, he may not rewrite the immigration laws to impose a condition that congress has expressly forbidden,” said Tigar, a nominee of former US president Barack Obama.

Tigar’s ruling will remain in effect for one month barring an appeal.

If the law is changed, the asylum ban would potentially make it difficult for thousands of men, women and children to avoid deportation.

Spokespeople for DHS and DOJ also told Euronews that asylum is a discretionary benefit given by the Executive Branch (White House), only when legal conditions are met.

They continued to say it is lawful and appropriate that this discretionary benefit not be given to those who violate a presidential proclamation aimed at controlling immigration in the national interest.

What is the current situation with asylum seekers in the US?

Around 70,000 people a year claim asylum between official ports of entry, according to the DHS.

“Individuals are entitled to asylum if they cross between ports of entry,” Baher Azmy, a lawyer for the Centre for Constitutional Rights told the Associated Press.

The centre sued the US government along with the American Civil Liberties Union (ACLU) following Trump’s proposal.

Around 3,000 people from the first of the caravans have arrived in Tijuana, Mexico, across the border from San Diego, California, according to US Customs and Border Protection.

DHS has said it wants asylum seekers at the southern border to appear at an official crossing.

However, many border crossings, such as San Ysidro, already have long wait times. People are often forced to wait in shelters or outdoor camps on the Mexican side, sometimes for weeks, AP reports.

Alien trafficking has also not slowed down on the Mexican Border, according to DHS reports.

This week, patrol agents from the Willcox Border Patrol Station arrested one Honduran national, three Mexican nationals, and two US citizens in two separate smuggling attempts last week.

As of Monday, 107 people detained between official crossings have sought asylum since Trump’s order went into effect, according to DHS, which oversees Customs and Border Protection.

What does US law say?

Section 212(f) of the Immigration and Nationality Act states: "Whenever the President finds that the entry of any aliens or of any class of aliens into the United States would be detrimental to the interests of the United States, he may by proclamation, and for such period as he shall deem necessary, suspend the entry of all aliens or any class of aliens as immigrants or nonimmigrants, or impose on the entry of aliens any restrictions he may deem to be appropriate.”

Section 215(a) of the Immigration and Nationality Act similarly states: "Unless otherwise ordered by the President, it shall be unlawful... for any alien to depart from or enter or attempt to depart from or enter the United States except under such reasonable rules, regulations, and orders, and subject to such limitations and exceptions as the President may prescribe."