US President Trump calls for asylum seekers to be charged fee

Latin America

U.S. President Donald Trump directed his administration to toughen rules for asylum seekers. Trump wants applicants to pay a fee.

And, as CGTN’s Dan Williams reported, a border town mayor blamed U.S. immigration policy for a humanitarian crisis.

Waiting in a shelter in Mexico, most of the migrants traveled from Central America. For many, the next stop was to claim asylum in the U.S. That path could soon become more difficult.

U.S. President Donald Trump has moved to toughen rules for asylum seekers. He ordered his cabinet members to write up new policies that would include a fee for asylum applications. He also wanted those who enter the country illegally barred from working until their claims are approved.

The Texas border city of El Paso had struggled to cope with the migrant influx in recent months. The city’s Republican mayor, Dee Margo, believed immigration law reform was long overdue.

“So we basically gave them what I would term unfettered entrance into the United States for protection. And that’s morphed into now families,” Margo said. “This is a problem derived from Washington and their inaction over the last 30 years to rationally deal with immigration reform. I hold both parties culpable. Both sides of the aisle, as I say, and both houses of Congress are responsible for this humanitarian crisis.”

Once migrants are processed and released into the US, many are sent to shelters like this one. A brand new shelter had just opened in El Paso. It was a former warehouse that can accommodate some 15-hundred people brought into service after the city’s former facilities struggled to cope with the demand.

In the meantime, work continued on sections of existing wall previously funded for upgrades. Eventually, a 23-kilometer stretch near Tijuana will have two imposing walls. One will tower more than nine meters high.

“It is definitely going to be more difficult for people to breach it. It is going to slow people down, “Justin Castrejon, a U.S. Border Patrol agent of the San Diego sector, said. “But what we have to do as a country, as an agency, as a government is to basically close the legal loopholes that are a major draw for people to even come to the border in the first place.”

At a shelter in San Diego, a new group of migrants arrived. If their cases weren’t heard within five months — and the process now often takes years – they are allowed to apply for a work permit. President Trump wanted to do away with that right and force judges to rule on all cases within six months.

Norma Chavez-Peterson of the American Civil Liberties Union saw the administration’s move as part of a continuing attack on migrants.

“First the family separation, now this attack and continued undermining of the asylum process and really it’s almost like this wanting to torture or really make families suffer as a way to deter and we know that’s not very humane, ” Chavez-Peterson explained. “And also the data shows, family keeps coming so we really need to look at the root causes. And we should as a country be looking to address these issues in a much more humane way.”

Trump had ordered officials to finalize a new policy proposal within three months, but it was unclear how long it might take for changes to take effect. Last month, U.S. customs and border protection officials encountered some 100,000 people at the U.S.-Mexico border, the highest level in more than a decade.

There is pressure on all sides to find lasting solutions to the surge at the southern border.