US President Donald Trump is proposing to charge asylum seekers a fee to process their applications as he continues to try to crack down on the surge of Central American migrants seeking to cross into the United States.
- Mr Trump said the asylum system was “in crisis” and plagued by “rampant abuse”
- Migrant families arriving at the southern border say they are fleeing violence and poverty
- The UN refugee agency said seeking refuge was a “fundamental human right”
In a presidential memorandum signed on Monday, Mr Trump directed his Attorney-General and acting Homeland Security Secretary to take additional measures to overhaul the asylum system, which he said was “in crisis” and plagued by “rampant abuse”.
The changes are the latest in a series of proposals from an administration that is struggling to cope with a surge of migrant families arriving at the southern border, which has overwhelmed federal resources and complicated Mr Trump’s re-election campaign.
Most of those arriving said they were fleeing violence and poverty, and many requested asylum under US and international law.
As part of the memo, Mr Trump gave officials 90 days to come up with new regulations to ensure applications were adjudicated within 180 days of filing, except under exceptional circumstances.
He also directed officials to begin charging a fee to process asylum and employment authorisation applications, which do not currently require payment.
The memo said the price would not exceed the cost of processing applications.
Value of fees still unclear
The White House and Department of Homeland Security officials did not immediately respond to questions about how much applicants might be forced to pay, and it was unclear how many families fleeing poverty would be able to afford such a payment.
Charlie Yaxley, a spokesman for the United Nations High Commissioner for Refugees, said he had no information on the fees and other measures in the proposal from Mr Trump.
“People should be allowed to exercise those rights when seeking to seek asylum,” he said.
“[It’s] a fundamental right.”
Mr Trump also wants to bar anyone who has entered or tried to enter the country illegally from receiving a provisional work permit.
He is also calling on officials to immediately revoke work authorisations when people are denied asylum and ordered their removal from the country.
Department of Homeland Security Secretary Kirstjen Nielsen resigned in early April amid Mr Trump’s increasing frustration over how many Central American families were crossing the US-Mexico border.
Arrests along the southern border have skyrocketed in recent months, with border agents making more than 100,000 arrests or denials of entry in March, a 12-year high