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    Migrants from Central America are seen before crossing illegally to the United States to turn themselves in to request asylum to U.S. Customs and Border Protection (CBP) officials in El Paso, Texas, in this picture taken from Ciudad Juarez, Mexico April 2, 2019

    ‘Pure Threats’: Trump’s Asylum Changes to Make Life ‘Living Hell’ for Migrants

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    Juan José Gutiérrez, the executive director of the Full Rights for Immigrants Coalition, joined Radio Sputnik’s Loud & Clear Tuesday to discuss US President Donald Trump’s new restrictions on asylum seekers at the US’ southern border, including application fees and a restriction on work permits.

    In his Monday memorandum, Trump ordered the US Justice and Homeland Security departments to develop policies that ensure that all asylum requests be decided within 180 days of filing, even though asylum claims typically take years to process, due to the backlog of them that has built up. In addition, Trump's memorandum bans anyone who crosses the southern border illegally from receiving work authorization and charges fees to those filing asylum applications, although applications have historically been free of charge.

    ​"The first thing that needs to be said is that, short term, each one of these new measures, that haven't gone into effect yet, constitute pure threats and political propaganda by President Trump to send a message to his right-wing base: he's the only heartless politician willing to make life a living hell for immigrants coming to the US to escape poverty and political violence," Gutiérrez told host John Kiriakou. 

    "Number one, President Trump has done the impossible to try and prevent people who have worthy political asylum claims from coming to the US. I think that with these measures… He is aiming to basically get rid of all these immigrants as quickly as possible, and so each one of them [the measures] is designed to make life very, very difficult for any person wishing to exercise his or her human right to claim political asylum in the US," Gutiérrez explained, going on to detail what typically happens in a US immigration court.

    "What happens is that, first of all, anyone who wishes to exercise their human right to political asylum in the US is interviewed by an immigration officer, and if they are able to articulate that they have a credible fear that if they are sent back to their country, their physical integrity, their very life could be in peril, then they are supposed to be allowed into the country and sent to the court system."

    "Once in the court system, the first thing that they need to do, technically, is file a political asylum petition. That petition, presently, can be filed, and it's free of charge. And then that application is reviewed by a court, and, presumably, the applicant gets an opportunity to go find a lawyer to help him or her prepare a credible case," Gutiérrez added. 

    However, under Trump's memorandum, US Attorney General William P. Barr and acting Homeland Security Secretary Kevin McAleenan have been ordered to propose regulations within 90 days to establish new policies that will "change the whole immigration process from the bottom-up," with the intent of making the political asylum process as harsh as possible for applicants, according to Gutiérrez.

    "I think what we can expect from this new guy [McAleenan] is a replica of what we are seeing at the Justice Department," Gutiérrez explained.

    "[McAleenan is like] individuals [at the Justice Department] that are not there to provide a service to citizens or to human beings, but basically to do the bidding for President Trump and his view of what ought to be happening in the area of immigration policy. Clearly, this individual [McAleenan] knows that if he wants to survive in this Donald Trump administration, he basically has to toe the line and do as [he's] told… This guy is bad news. He is not there to think about what's best for the country. He's there to do the bidding for all these right-wing politicians," Gutiérrez continued.

    Last month, McAleenan used rhetoric similar to Trump, describing the situation at the US-Mexico border as an "unprecedented humanitarian and border security crisis." 

    An increasing number of migrants from Central America have been arriving at the US border in recent months, despite Mexico's efforts to curb organized caravans.

    Mexican Interior Minister Olga Sanchez Cordero has claimed if the current migration flow remains unchanged, the number of migrants trying to get through Mexico to the United States will reach 900,000 people by the end of 2019, Sputnik previously reported.

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    asylum seekers, migrants, US-Mexico Border, Donald Trump, United States
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