Trump mulling over travel ban-style order to bar migrants

US President Donald Trump is weighing a range of possible options designed to prevent undocumented migrants from crossing the US-Mexican frontier. PHOTO: EPA-EFE

WASHINGTON (BLOOMBERG) - The Trump administration is considering an order to block the entry of migrants at the southern border, using the same authority as its earlier travel ban, a person familiar with the matter said, as thousands of Central Americans make their way towards the United States.

The action, if implemented, would effectively bar those seeking asylum from entering the country.

President Donald Trump is weighing a range of possible options designed to prevent undocumented migrants from crossing the US-Mexican frontier, according to a White House official familiar with the discussions. Both people spoke on condition of anonymity, as no final decision has been made.

The travel ban, announced shortly after Mr Trump took office, affected people from seven countries, five of them with Muslim majorities.

The executive order being looked at now would deny asylum claims based on national security concerns and give broad authority to officials at the border, the person said.

The New York Times reported on Thursday night that the administration was considering an order that would bar migrants, including those requesting asylum, who try to enter the country from Mexico, a significant escalation of presidential power on immigration policy.

The White House official wouldn't confirm the Times report and others, saying that several legal, executive and legislative remedies were on the table.

Mr Trump has repeatedly sought to underscore undocumented immigration as an issue before the midterm congressional elections on Nov 6, and he has blamed Democrats for the so-called caravan of Central American migrants that is headed toward the border.

"Every time you see a Caravan, or people illegally coming, or attempting to come, into our Country illegally, think of and blame the Democrats for not giving us the votes to change our pathetic Immigration Laws!" he said on Twitter.

He claimed that Middle Eastern terrorists are among the the thousands of people travelling from Honduras, but later said that there was no evidence to support that assertion.

The Trump administration plans to send at least 800 additional troops to the US-Mexico border, according to a third person familiar with the deliberations.

The president has also threatened to cut off US aid to three Central American countries - Guatemala, Honduras and El Salvador - over the migrants heading from Central America toward the US border.

The Times article, citing anonymous sources, said that details of the possible executive order were still the planning stages and that whatever emerged was sure to be met with legal challenges.

In June, a sharply divided Supreme Court upheld Mr Trump's ban on travel from the seven countries. The restrictions indefinitely bar more than 150 million people from entering the US.

The troops that Mr Trump is sending to the border would join 2,100 National Guard troops who were previously deployed to perform support duties for Department of Homeland Security personnel.

Mr Trump said on Twitter on Thursday that he was "bringing out the military for this National Emergency" and promised immigrants unlawfully crossing the border "will be stopped!"

Cutting aid to the Central American countries is more complicated. Much of the money for El Salvador, Guatemala and Honduras was appropriated by Congress in the form of anti-corruption and good-governance programmes. Those initiatives have broad support from lawmakers, who have already promised to put up a fight should Mr Trump try to make good on his threat.

The migrants began crossing into southern Mexico last Saturday, avoiding that country's migration authorities and federal police by jumping off the border bridge crossing the Suchiate River or by crossing the river in improvised rafts made of tires and boards, according to images from El Financiero Bloomberg TV.

Under standard US procedures, the migrants, assuming they reached the southern border, would be detained for not having the required documents and asked whether they are afraid of returning to their home.

A person who answers "no" would not be admitted into the country. A person who expresses fear of persecution or torture would be interviewed by an asylum officer to establish whether there is credible fear of persecution.

Mr Michael Bars, a spokesman for the US Citizenship and Immigration Services, said in an e-mail that the "extremely low bar" for establishing credible fear allows economic migrants to abuse the system by posing as asylum-seekers, then disappear before their court dates to live illegally in the US.

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