Days before the midterm election, the Trump administration is devising a plan to bar immigrants from Central American countries from applying for asylum in the United States.
The move, which has been in the works for two weeks, comes as President Donald Trump has spent days talking about what he considers a threat from several thousand migrants making their way from Central America through Mexico to the U.S. border on foot.
The action has been talked about for months but grew more imminent in recent weeks, said a former DHS official familiar with the situation. “It’s another tool in the tool box.”
Two sources said the action would encompass two executive orders: one, similar to Trump’s so-called travel ban against migrants from majority-Muslim countries, and another denying asylum to those from Central America who arrive at the border. Experts said the orders would immediately be challenged in court.
In recent days, Trump, who won the White House after campaigning on cracking down on immigration, has blamed Democrats for immigration problems in the United States, which have led a caravan to head to the Mexican border.
On Friday morning, after news broke about his possible executive orders, Trump tweeted that Democrats were blocking his attempts to pass “strong (but fair) laws.”
Two former Trump advisers who remain close to the White House say Trump knows the issue has motivated Republican voters as the party tries to hold onto its majorities in the midterm election in two weeks.
“Caravan attacks is playing well with voters,” said one former Trump adviser who remains close to the White House. Earlier Thursday, Defense Secretary Jim Mattis said 800 U.S. troops would be dispatched to the southern border to help immigration officers with logistics.
Republicans fighting to retain majorities in Congress in a year when the president’s party traditionally loses ground have largely been outraised by their Democratic counterparts. Democrats need a net gain of 23 seats in the House and two in the Senate to gain control of the chambers.
The United States normally considers asylum requests on an individual basis and determines whether the applicant has a reasonable fear of harm if he or she returns to their home country.
Guatemalans, Hondurans and Salvadorans are fleeing gang crime violence and poverty. Some women are also fleeing domestic violence.
Pro-immigration groups immediately dubbed the action “The Latino Ban.”
“The proposed ban is yet another shameful attempt by this administration to block from the United States the vulnerable men, women, and children who come to this country seeking safety,” said Mike Breen, president and CEO of Human Rights First. The Trump administration clearly believes it is above the law, but this Latino Ban will not hold up in court.”
Since he has been in office, Trump has unveiled many proposals to cut back on legal and illegal immigration in the United States and on Thursday, the administration was preparing to send as many as 1,000 troops to help secure the southern border.
Trump had already made immigration a prominent part of their midterm campaigns and called voters to elect Republicans to Congress who will give him cash to build a massive border wall.
Trump has threatened to cut foreign aid to Central American countries as thousands of migrants have left the region and pushed north as part of a highly publicized caravan of migrants. The latest group of about 4,000 people is working its way north from Honduras, with people joining along the way. Mexico has dispatched federal police to its southern border to intercept them, but many have proceeded.
Since taking office, Trump has issued sweeping new directives to step up deportations of those in the country illegally, pushed Congress to pass bills that have failed to gain traction, issued executive orders that restrict visas from certain countries, introduced a politically disastrous policy to separate parents from their children at the border — that was ultimately reversed — and promised to build a massive border wall that has yet to gain funding from Congress.
Meanwhile, border numbers crossing continue to increase.
Franco Ordoñez in Washington and Brenda Medina and Jacqueline Charles of the Miami Herald contributed to this report