President Trump's top official at U.S. Citizenship and Immigration Services (USCIS) praisedto allow the administration to implement a rule that severely restricts asylum to migrants who seek refuge at the U.S.-Mexico border. Ken Cuccinelli told "Face the Nation" Sunday the controversial policy will deter people considering journeying to the U.S. for economic opportunities.
"It will be a deterrent for some people, particularly those who were going to be coming and claiming what are clearly false asylum claims," Cuccinelli said.
In a major legal triumph for the administration's hardline immigration agenda, the Supreme Court last week said officials could enforce a rule that restricts access to the U.S. asylum system for non-Mexican migrants who traveled through Mexico and other countries to reach the southwestern border — but did not seek protection in the first nation they transited en route to the U.S.
The policy is designed to curb a months-long surge of migration of families and unaccompanied migrant children from the Central America. But the rule will also, barring few exceptions, make migrants from Cuba, Brazil, Venezuela and countries in Africa and other parts of the world ineligible for asylum.
Cuccinelli on Sunday said his office, which employs America's asylum officers, is coordinating with other Homeland Security agencies to move swiftly to fully implement the near-total ban on asylum at the southern border.
"We're ramping this up as quickly as we can logistically," he said. "We'll do it in the places where we have the logistics in place fastest first and then move it all the way across the border. But this will be measured in days not weeks."
Immigrant advocates and Democrats have been withering in their criticism of the administration's rule, saying it ignores America's moral and legal obligations to refugees and predicting that it will place thousands of asylum seekers in harm's way. Earlier on "Face the Nation," Minnesota Democratic Representativeas "morally and legally wrong."
But Cuccinelli downplayed these concerns, denying that his administration is trying to build a "moat" around America's longstanding symbolism as a safe haven for people fleeing persecution. He said the rule is simply an effort to respond to a "crisis" at the southern border. Although there was a 13-year monthly high of apprehensions at the U.S.-Mexico border in May, arrests of migrants have dwindled in the last three months.
"The president has been very clear about the need to be aggressive on the border — and that's exactly what we're doing," Cuccinelli said.