A senior Trump administration official on Monday said immigration agents should be able to “adversely” consider whether an asylum seeker stepped foot in another country before arriving in the United States.
“They probably should have applied for asylum on their way here,” said the senior administration official during a call with journalists on Monday afternoon. (The call was on background and the officials asked to be referred to as senior White House officials or senior administration officials.)
The call was scheduled after President Donald Trump tweeted about a group of more than 1,000 migrants currently making their way through Mexico. Most of the participants in the so-called “refugee caravan” are Central Americans who say they are escaping political persecution and gang violence. They plan to seek asylum when they reach the U.S. border.
To be clear, under U.S. and international law, it is perfectly legal for people to present themselves at a port of entry and seek asylum or another humanitarian status. But, still, Attorney General Jeff Sessions has made calls to limit who can apply for asylum.
The White House official said agents should have the power to consider if someone traveled through a different country to get to the U.S. and “count that against them” when deciding whether to approve claims that someone has a credible fear of returning to the nation where they were born.
“[Currently] we are unable to take that into account adversely when considering someone’s asylum, that they just passed through where they probably should have applied for asylum on their way here,” the official said.
The “refugee caravan” is expected to reach U.S. ports of entry near Tijuana this month.