Trump Administration’s Stance on Asylum May Not Have Legal Grounding

Along with Twitter, Executive Orders and Presidential Proclamations seem to be the favorite policymaking tools used by United States President Donald Trump, but they do not seem to be as effective as he envisions them. The latest example in this regard is a Presidential Proclamation that intends to deny asylum to migrants who enter the country illegally; as with other hasty decisions that Trump has made during his controversial mandate, this proclamation is already facing strong legal challenges.

The background issue that prompted the proclamation is a series of migrant caravans that originated in the Central American Northern Triangle of El Salvador, Guatemala and Honduras, three countries that have made substantial contributions to the War on Drugs, which has resulted in an escalation of criminal gang activity and violence. The caravan formed in October and had grown to a strength of more than 6,000 before the midterm elections, but was reduced to about 2,000 by the time the migrants had reached Mexico City on foot.

The caravan are mostly made of individuals and families who intend to apply for asylum once they reach the border between Mexico and the U.S.; the basis for their request would be fear of persecution by criminal gangs in their countries. It should be noted that MS-13, the largest and dangerous criminal organization in El Salvador, began as a prison gang in Los Angeles, and it has consolidated its power in Central America as a result of the War on Drugs.

According to Washington Post, one of the legal arguments against Trump’s proclamation has been filed in California’s Ninth Circuit of the Federal District Court by the American Civil Liberties Union. The legal argument is that the proclamation goes against the Immigration and Nationality Act. Legal analysts who have reviewed the ACLU complaint predict that it will prevail in circuit court and perhaps appellate court, but it may be overturned at the Supreme Court level.

Another problem with the proclamation is that it goes against the United Nations Refugee Convention, of which the U.S. is a signatory. As the situation stands, quite a few migrants have been turned away at checkpoints along the southern border with Mexico, thus denying their right to apply for asylum.

Under the Trump administration, the backlog of asylum petitions has placed a heavy burden on the courts assigned to review these cases. The proclamation would bring relief to the courts in the sense that it may reduce the caseload, but it may doing so in contravention of international agreements on how refugees and asylum seekers should be treated.

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