The Trump administration announced new measures Thursday to deny asylum to illegal immigrants, citing emergency national security powers that'll end longstanding humanitarian protections, according to multiple reports.
The caravan has remained undeterred, and participants have told Al Jazeera they plan on applying for asylum at an official port of entry.
In Fiscal Year 2018, almost 90 percent of Central American migrants who arrived at the border and claimed "credible fear" passed their initial asylum-seeking interview.
The new policy would kick in only after the president issues a proclamation blocking entry of illegal immigrants across the southern border.
The announcement said the president had the authority to impose "any restrictions he may deem to be appropriate". "It is illegal to circumvent that by agency or presidential decree".
Curbing immigration has been a signature issue for Trump, who pushed it hard in the days leading up to Tuesday's midterm elections, railing against the caravans that are still hundreds of miles from the border. As of Thursday, there are more than 5,600 US troops deployed to the border mission, with about 550 actually working on the border in Texas.
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A senior administration official said the White House hopes that by funneling asylum claimants to ports of entry, officials will be able to assess and adjudicate the claims more rapidly.
"Congress has directly spoken to this question as to whether individuals can be rendered ineligible for asylum if they cross between ports of entry and has specifically said people are eligible regardless of where they cross", said Lee Gelernt, an attorney with the American Civil Liberties Union. The military is expected to have the vast majority of the more than 7,000 troops planned for the mission deployed by Monday, and that number could grow. Those issues were not addressed by the regulations Thursday. Claims have spiked in recent years, and there is a backlog of more than 800,000 cases pending in immigration court.
Trump's administration argues that he has the executive power to curb immigration in the name of national security, a power he invoked right after taking office with a controversial ban on travelers from several mostly-Muslim countries - whose final version was upheld by the US Supreme Court on June 26 after a protracted legal battle.
It only would affect immigrants who seek asylum after the issuance of a presidential proclamation. And in the last five years, the number of those requesting asylum has increased by 2,000 percent, it said.
Trump said he was sending 15,000 active duty military to the border to deal with the problem, in what former President Barack Obama called a political 'stunt.' The troops began laying barbed wire as the migrants traveled toward the USA on foot. The migrants are largely poor people and many say they're fleeing violence; more than 1,700 were children under 18, and more than 300 were children under age 5.