Immigration authorities will closely scrutinize asylum seekers traveling in a caravan to the U.S. border and swiftly detain and deport those who don’t have credible claims, Homeland Security Secretary Kirstjen Nielsen promised Monday.
Potential illegal immigrants would face stiff legal consequences if they crossed the border without authorization, Nielsen warned in a statement.
“If members of the ‘caravan’ enter the country illegally, they will be referred for prosecution for illegal entry in accordance with existing law,” she said in a statement. “For those seeking asylum, all individuals may be detained while their claims are adjudicated efficiently and expeditiously, and those found not to have a claim will be promptly removed from the United States.”
Nielsen’s comments came after President Donald Trump said earlier Monday he had instructed her to take steps to prevent similar caravans from entering the country.
“Despite the Democrat inspired laws on Sanctuary Cities and the Border being so bad and one sided, I have instructed the Secretary of Homeland Security not to let these large Caravans of people into our Country,” Trump said on Twitter. “It is a disgrace. We are the only Country in the World so naive! WALL”
Despite the Democrat inspired laws on Sanctuary Cities and the Border being so bad and one sided, I have instructed the Secretary of Homeland Security not to let these large Caravans of people into our Country. It is a disgrace. We are the only Country in the World so naive! WALL
— Donald J. Trump (@realDonaldTrump) April 23, 2018
The caravan, which at one point numbered as many as 1,500 migrants, began its northward journey late March. Though it is an annual event, this year’s march gained prominence thanks to reports from U.S. media outlets describing the ways Mexican authorities were helping the migrants reach the U.S. border.
Along its journey, the caravan dwindled as Mexican immigration authorities detained and deported some migrants who did not have a right to stay in Mexico. However, most of the caravan was allowed to continue, and at least 50 migrants arrived in Tijuana April 19 to begin applying for asylum. Hundreds more are expected to reach the border in the coming days.
Trump blamed the migrant caravan on U.S. lawmakers, who refused to fund his proposed border wall, and the Mexican government, which he says has not done enough to halt potential illegal immigrants passing through Mexico on their way to the border. United States trade negotiators might demand tougher immigration enforcement as a part of ongoing NAFTA negotiations with Mexico, Trump said on Monday.
“Mexico, whose laws on immigration are very tough, must stop people from going through Mexico and into the U.S.,” Trump tweeted. “We may make this a condition of the new NAFTA Agreement. Our Country cannot accept what is happening!”
Meanwhile, DHS, along with the Department of Justice, is preparing to send personnel to the southwest border to deal with a potential influx of asylum seekers. Additional federal immigration attorneys, judges, prosecutors and asylum officers will be deployed to handle deportations and in some cases, prosecutions of illegal immigrants, Nielsen said
“Again, if you enter the United States illegally, let me be clear: you have broken the law,” Nielsen said Monday. “And we will enforce the law through prosecution of illegal border crossers.”
“DHS encourages persons with asylum or other similar claims to seek protections in the first safe country they enter, including Mexico,” she added.
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