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Donald Trump to crack down on US asylum laws, Indian human smugglers should worry

Not a popular gateway into the US for most Indians, who have preferred the H-1B route for highly skilled foreign workers and other employment-based options for decades, asylum has been used by Punjab-based agents of international human smugglers to offer a costlier — every trip costs Rs 25 lakh and more — and riskier alternative.

world Updated: Nov 02, 2018 15:07 IST
Yashwant Raj
Yashwant Raj
Hindustan Times, Washington
Donald Trump,immigration,asylum
President Donald Trump waves upon arrival at the White House in Washington on November 1, 2018, from a campaign rally in Missouri. (AP Photo)

US president Donald Trump on Thursday said he plans to issue an executive order next week that will end the “abuse” of the country’s lax asylum laws and initiate unspecified measures on immigration, which is a top issue for Republican voters for the crucial mid-term elections next week.

Trump offered no details of his plan but indicated the key element will an outright denial of asylum request from anyone who entered the United States illegally. And those who got in illegally will be held in detentions centres till their requests were processed and then will be deported home.

Not a popular gateway into the US for most Indians, who have preferred the H-1B route for highly skilled foreign workers and other employment-based options for decades, asylum has been used by Punjab-based agents of international human smugglers to offer a costlier — every trip costs Rs 25 lakh and more — and riskier alternative.

Hundreds of Indians go through this asylum route every year — scores more of them are turned down and put on the next flight home — but their claims are likely to face unprecedented scrutiny now if Trump goes through with his promise and issues executive order next week irrespective of the poll outcome.

“Migrants seeking asylum will have to present themselves lawfully at a port of entry,” Trump said in remarks from the White House. “Those who choose to break our laws and enter illegally will no longer be able to use meritless claims to gain automatic admission into our country,” he said.

“We will hold them -- for a long time, if necessary.”

The president’s speech was billed as a policy pronouncement but fast morphed into a familiar rendition of speeches he has delivered at election rallies at the rate of one every day — to talk up immigration to fire up his base, in view of the upcoming midterms. Immigration is a top issue for some Republicans.

“We will be doing an executive order sometime next week,” the president said taking questions from reporters after his remarks. “Yes, it’s going to be talking about everything. It’ll be quite comprehensive. Many of the things we’ve talked about today,” he added.

The White House could not offer more details either.

The US granted 20,455 people asylum in 2016, according to the most recent count made available by the US citizenship and immigration services (USCIS), the agency that deals with citizenship as its name reflects. Of these, 383 were from India, those whose claims were accepted; the rest were sent home.

More than 100 asylum seekers from India have been detained in the United States in recent months — in facilities in Oregon and New Mexico — for crossing into the US illegally through the southern border. They are mostly from Punjab and have alleged persecution for supporting the cause of a separate country.

It’s a “game” one asylum seeker from Punjab, who was turned down, told Hindustan Times recently. A network of multi-national human-smugglers brings them to the US border through a circuitous and partly perilous route passing through some of the world’s most dangerous cities for a hefty fee.

President Trump referred to the abuse of the asylum laws and the ease with which petitioners are able to make their case.

“The biggest loophole drawing illegal aliens to our borders is the use of fraudulent or meritless asylum claims to gain entry into our great country,” he said in his remarks from the White House.

“This endemic abuse of the asylum system makes a mockery of our immigration system, displacing legitimate asylum-seekers -- and there are legitimate asylum-seekers -- while rewarding those who abuse or defraud our system, which is almost everybody.”

First Published: Nov 02, 2018 15:07 IST