Trump signs proclamation stopping illegal immigrants from being given asylum

"These restrictions are illegal - asylum is a legal right regardless of how someone enters the country", RAICES, an immigrant legal services organisation in Texas, said in a statement. As of Thursday, there were more than 5,600 US troops deployed to the border mission, with about 550 actually working on the border in Texas.

"What we are attempting to do is trying to funnel. asylum claims through the ports of entry where we are better resourced, have better capabilities and better manpower and staffing to actually handle those claims in an expeditious and efficient manner", a senior administration official told reporters in a news briefing on Thursday, on condition of anonymity. "It is illegal to circumvent that by agency or presidential decree", he said.

The move came as a caravan of thousands of migrants, which Trump has branded an "invasion" of "criminals", makes its way northward through Mexico toward the border.

Those denied asylum under the new order will still be able to apply for "withholding of removal" - a limited form of asylum that doesn't allow for green cards or family members to join the applicant; or asylum under the United Nations Convention Against Torture. The caravan's participants have told Al Jazeera they are fleeing violence, including political persecution, and harsh economic situations.

Soaring numbers of migrants have entered the United States taking this administrative path in recent years, often crossing illegally to turn themselves in to USA border agents.

Instead of sneaking into the United States and making an asylum claim only after getting caught and facing deportation, immigrants will now have to present themselves to border authorities at a legal point of entry, surrender themselves to custody, and only then will they be allowed to file for asylum.

Migrants who cross illegally are generally arrested and often seek asylum or some other form of protection. Nonetheless, it would still give those who cross illegally a way to get into the immigration court backlog and released from custody, especially those who are traveling with children.

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Activists have accused border officials of unduly using this "metering" approach. Since 2014, asylum claims at the border have increased fourfold, adding to a backlog of more than 750,000 pending cases in USA immigration courts.

Secretary of State Mike Pompeo said in September the country would take no more than 30,000 refugees in a year. "They hurt thousands of women and children. who have been denied a future already by United States foreign policy" the organisation added.

Trump also suggested he'd revoke the right to citizenship for babies born to non-U.S. citizens on American soil and erect massive "tent cities" to detain migrants.

The United States regularly sends Mexican undocumented entrants back across the border to their country, but has had difficulties gaining cooperation to repatriate Hondurans, Salvadorans and Guatemalans.

It's unclear how many people en route to the USA will even make it to the border. Several smaller groups were trailing hundreds of kilometres to the south; officials estimated about 7,000 in all were in the country in the caravans. More than 1,700 were children under 18, and more than 300 were children under age five.

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