White House

Trump wants to clamp down on asylum

President Donald Trump waves as he boards Air Force One, Saturday, Oct. 7, 2017, in Andrews Air Force Base, Md., en route to a fundraiser in Greensboro, N.C.
President Donald Trump waves as he boards Air Force One, Saturday, Oct. 7, 2017, in Andrews Air Force Base, Md., en route to a fundraiser in Greensboro, N.C. AP

In exchange for protecting hundreds of thousands of young immigrants brought to the country illegally by their parents, the Trump administration wants to upend long-held United States ideals of keeping immigrant families together and shielding those with no safe place to go.

The Trump administration released its set of immigration priorities Sunday night that it wants included in any proposal that involves protecting so-called Dreamers.

In a letter to Congress outlining its wish list, the administration called for making it significantly harder to secure asylum and easier for federal agents to deport people who claim they fear returning to their home country.

Ronald Vitiello, U.S. Customs and Border Protection’s acting deputy commissioner, said the asylum system has served as a magnet for illegal immigration, contains too many loopholes and is in desperate need of reform.

“Many Americans would be surprised to know that being released into the interior of the country as an illegal immigrant is as simple as filing for an asylum petition,” Vitiello said.

The administration said asylum loopholes have also contributed to a “massive” backlog in the courts, where there are more than 270,000 pending asylum cases.

It’s too easy for many migrants to be released into the United States simply by claiming they are afraid to return to their home country, officials said. They want to make it easier to deport applicants back to their home country and impose penalties against those filing baseless applications.

President Donald Trump and Democratic leaders have reached an understanding on protections for young immigrants brought to the U.S. illegally as children, according to Senate Minority Leader Chuck Schumer of New York on Sept. 14, 2017. Speaking on

The White House sent Capitol Hill leaders a lengthy document Sunday night outlining a long list of proposals already introduced in standalone bills — eliminating protections for unaccompanied children who are in the country illegally, reducing legal immigration by placing people with certain skills at the front of the line and implementing E-verify, an online system that allows businesses to check immigration status.

The lengthy set of demands is likely to kill any chance of a bipartisan deal, said proponents fighting to protect Dreamers.

“The administration can’t be serious about compromise or helping the Dreamers if they begin with a list that is anathema to the Dreamers, to the immigrant community and to the vast majority of Americans,” said House Minority Leader Nancy Pelosi and Senate Minority Leader Chuck Schumer in a joint statement late Sunday. “This list goes so far beyond what is reasonable. This proposal fails to represent any attempt at compromise.”

The Dreamers themselves say they won’t support any deal that targets their parents in exchange for their own protections. Democrats and some Republicans are not expected to support measures that include massive interior enforcement and cuts to legal immigration.

“President Trump and Congress have victory within their grasp. They can protect Dreamers, enact smart border enforcement policies and move the nation forward. Allowing extreme factions within the administration to undermine the president’s solid word of commitment to Dreamers would put an end to the most passable immigration reform proposal we’ve seen come out of Congress in decades,” said Ali Noorani, executive director of the National Immigration Forum, an immigration advocacy group.

The White House said last month it will shut down an Obama-era program that delayed deportation — Deferred Action for Childhood Arrivals or DACA — after a six-month period meant to give Congress time to pass a legislative fix.

He then struck a deal with Pelosi and Schumer to protect Dreamers in exchange for increased security at the border, but not necessarily a wall.

The administration also raised the possibility again of sending asylum applicants who can’t immediately be deported to a third country to await court hearings. That idea, first introduced in February, set off a massive outcry in Mexico, which was specifically mentioned as the destination.

Franco Ordoñez: 202-383-6155, @francoordonez