Immigrant advocates have denounced the move, saying it violated existing USA law that allows people fleeing persecution and violence in their home countries to apply for asylum regardless of whether they enter illegally or not.
Migrants who show up at ports of entry demanding asylum would still be permitted.
But the administration official argued that "what we're attempting to do is trying to funnel credible fear claims, or asylum claims, through the ports of entry where we are better resourced".
Central American migrants, part of a caravan traveling to the US-Mexico border, walk on a road near Isla municipality, Veracruz, Mexico, Nov. 3, 2018. It's unknown whether those in the caravan, many fleeing violence in their homeland, plan to cross illegally.
The regulations released, in conjunction with an order expected to be signed by President Donald Trump, would effectively ban migrants who cross the United States border with Mexico illegally from qualifying for asylum. The officials were not authorized to speak publicly and spoke to The Associated Press on condition of anonymity.
Last week, he said he would be taking steps to limit asylum claims. Mr. Trump claims he can accomplish this through an executive order, rather than with a constitutional amendment through Congress. Omar Jadwat, director of the American Civil Liberties Union's Immigrants' Rights Project, said they were clearly illegal. There, "they would be processed in a controlled, orderly, and lawful manner", according to the rule. "It is illegal to circumvent that by agency or presidential decree", he said.
In nearly 50 percent of cases where Central American migrants passed their initial asylum-seeking screening, the migrant never appeared for their asylum hearing or did not even file an asylum application. As of Thursday, there are more than 5,600 USA troops deployed to the border mission, with about 550 actually working on the border in Texas. His administration also deployed thousands of troops to the border, and said he massive tent cities are being erected to house asylum seekers until there is a decision on their application. Those issues were not addressed by the regulations Thursday.
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Once triggered, it would give the government the power to deny asylum claims to illegal immigrants.
Donald Trump's administration has unveiled new rules to sharply limit migrant asylum claims by barring individuals who cross the USA southern border illegally from seeking asylum.
It only would affect immigrants who seek asylum after the issuance of a presidential proclamation.
Claims have spiked in recent years, and there is a backlog of more than 800,000 cases pending in immigration court. Generally, only about 20 per cent of applicants are approved. Trump, however, said his action would require them to apply at a port of entry. But many migrants are unaware of that guidance, and official border crossings have grown clogged.
They are meant to speed up rulings on asylum claims, instead of having migrants try to circumvent official crossings on the almost 2,000-mile (3,200-kilometer) border. These are not eligible asylum claims. A report by the left-leaning Washington Office on Latin America suggested that "the number of unaccompanied children and family members admitted to the ports of entry, mainly for protection requests, plummeted by 42 percent from May to June".
It's unclear how many people en route to the USA will even make it to the border. Several smaller groups were trailing hundreds of miles to the south; officials estimated about 7,000 in all were in the country in the caravans. Most have passed largely unnoticed.
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