Washington -- President Trump is proposing charging asylum-seekers a fee to process their applications as he continues to try to blunt the surge of Central American migrants trying to cross into the U.S.
In a presidential memorandum signed Monday, Mr. Trump directed his attorney general and acting homeland security secretary to take additional measures to overhaul the asylum system, which he insists "is in crisis" and plagued by "rampant abuse."
The changes are just the latest in a series of proposals from an administration that is struggling to cope with a surge of migrant families arriving at the Southern border that has overwhelmed federal resources and complicated Mr. Trump's efforts to claim victory at the border as he runs for re-election. Most of those arriving say they are fleeing violence and poverty and many request asylum under U.S. and international law.
The Trump administration has frequently blamed U.S. laws protecting asylum seekers for encouraging them to seek that status in the U.S. But immigrant advocates say the administration's policies are unfair to those who would qualify for asylum.
As part of the memo, Mr. Trump is giving officials 90 days to come up with new regulations to ensure that applications are adjudicated within 180 days of filing, except under exceptional circumstances.
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And he is directing officials to begin charging a fee to process asylum and employment authorization applications - which don't currently require payment.
The White House and DHS officials didn't immediately respond to questions about how much applicants might be forced to pay, and it was unclear how many families fleeing poverty would be able to afford such a payment.
The memo says the price wouldn't exceed the cost of processing applications, but officials didn't immediately provide an estimate for what that might be.
Mr. Trump also wants to bar anyone who has entered or tried to enter the country illegally from receiving a provisional work permit and is calling on officials to immediately revoke work authorizations when individuals are denied asylum and ordered removed from the country.
He is also calling on the Department of Homeland Security to reassign immigration officers and any other staff "to improve the integrity of adjudications of credible and reasonable fear claims, to strengthen the enforcement of the immigration laws, and to ensure compliance with the law by those aliens who have final orders of removal."
Arrests along the southern border have skyrocketed in recent months, with border agents making more than 100,000 arrests or denials of entry in March, a 12-year high.