U.S. President Donald Trump said in a speech Thursday afternoon that the military will no longer release asylum seekers detained at the southern border ahead of their trial date.
“We’re not releasing anymore – we’re going to no longer release, we’re going to catch, we’re not going to release, they’re going to stay with us until the deportation hearing or the asylum hearing takes place,” the president told reporters.
On Thursday, Trump was expected to announce his plans to automatically deny asylum to migrants who try to enter the U.S. illegally between ports of entry — part of his latest election-season response to caravans heading toward the border.
He added that asylum is “about safety,” rather than “a program for those that are living in poverty.”
It was unclear whether the restrictions Trump was expected to propose would apply only to those traveling in the caravans or extend to all people trying to enter the country. And it also was questionable whether Trump has the legal authority.
The asylum clause of the Immigration and Nationality Act says that anyone who arrives to the U.S. may apply for asylum. And any change would almost certainly be immediately challenged in court.
When asked whether the new policy would be legal, he told reporters “this is totally legal, this is an invasion.”
WATCH: U.S. troops get ready as migrant caravan draws nearer top U.S. border
Trump was to make his announcement during brief remarks Thursday afternoon, according to three people familiar with the plans. They spoke only on condition of anonymity because they were not authorized to speak publicly by name.
The administration has been discussing various options to address the caravans for days and it was possible that things could change before Trump’s 4:15 p.m. remarks “on the illegal immigration crisis” before he departs the White House for a campaign rally in Missouri.
WATCH: Caravan of migrants continues trek towards U.S.
The announcement would be Trump’s latest attempt to keep the issue of immigration front-and-center as he tries to drum up GOP enthusiasm in the final stretch before next Tuesday’s elections, which will determine whether the GOP retains control of Congress. Trump and his aides have long believed immigration is key to turning out his base, and he has seized on the caravans of Central American migrants slowly making their way through Mexico toward the U.S.
The president announced on Wednesday that he was considering deploying up to 15,000 troops to the U.S.-Mexican border in response to the still far-off caravans — roughly double the number the Pentagon said it currently plans for a mission whose dimensions are shifting daily.
Trump and other administration officials have long encouraged those seeking asylum to come through legal ports of entry. But many migrants are unaware of that guidance, and official border crossings have grown increasingly clogged. Immigration officials have turned away asylum-seekers at ports of entry because of overcrowding, telling them to return at a later date. Backlogs have grown especially bad in recent months at crossings in California, Arizona and Texas, with people generally waiting five weeks to claim asylum at San Diego’s main crossing and sleeping out in the open for days at a time.
The administration has also been ramping up security at ports of entry this week. In McAllen, Texas, in the Rio Grande Valley, workers were seen installing additional gates and fences along a walkway on a bridge between the U.S. and Mexico, according to The Monitor paper of McAllen.
WATCH: Second migrant caravan smashes through Mexico border as clashes erupt
Migrants who cross illegally are generally arrested and often seek asylum or some other form of protection. Claims have spiked in recent years, and there is currently a backlog of more than 800,000 cases pending in immigration court. Administration officials have railed against what they say are loopholes designed to encourage people, especially from Central America, to come to the U.S. and claim asylum. Generally, only about 20 percent of applicants are approved.
The U.S. fielded more than 330,000 asylum claims in 2017, nearly double the number two years earlier and surpassing Germany as highest in the world. A U.N. Refugee Agency report doesn’t break out exactly where and how they claimed asylum.
There are currently four caravans making their way toward the U.S. The main group of about 4,000 migrants — down from its estimated peak of more than 7,000 — remains in southern Mexico, on foot and hundreds of miles from the border. A second, smaller group of 1,000 or so migrants is more than 200 miles behind the first caravan. A third band of about 500 from El Salvador has made it to Guatemala, and a fourth group of about 700 set out from the Salvadoran capital Wednesday.
Trump has nonetheless mounted an enormous show of force in response. The Pentagon said “more than 7,000” troops were being sent to the southwest border to support Customs and Border Protection agents, though troop numbers have been changing at a dizzying pace.
WATCH: Trump blames Democrats for migrant caravan ‘crisis’
Just last week officials were indicating that about 800 to 1,000 might be sent. On Monday, officials announced that about 5,200 were being deployed. The next day, the Air Force general running the operation said more than the initially announced total were going, and he pointedly rejected a news report that it could reach 14,000, saying that was “not consistent with what’s actually being planned.”
Just 24 hours later, Trump caught the Pentagon by surprise.
“As far as the caravan is concerned, our military is out,” Trump said Wednesday.
“We have about 5,800. We’ll go up to anywhere between 10,000 and 15,000 military personnel on top of Border Patrol, ICE and everybody else at the border.”
Trump has rejected the idea he has been “fearmongering” and using the issue for political purposes, but his escalating rhetoric in the final days of the campaign season calls that denial into question. He also has said he plans an executive order to unilaterally end the constitutionally protected right of citizenship for children born to non-U.S. citizens.
Trump also tweeted a video Wednesday alleging Democrats were responsible for allowing a homicidal immigrant into the U.S. but provided no evidence supporting that claim.
In his Wednesday tweet, Trump highlighted the case of Luis Bracamontes, a twice-deported immigrant from Mexico sentenced to death in California for killing two police officers. The 53-second spot includes expletives uttered by Bracamontes during his trial as he professed regret at not killing more officials.
WATCH: U.S. to cut foreign aid as migrant caravan continues north
The video includes scenes of migrants moving toward the U.S. and asks ominously, “Who else would Democrats let in?”
It was reminiscent of the infamous “Willie Horton” ad used against Democratic presidential candidate Michael Dukakis in 1988 and condemned as racist. Horton, who was black, raped a woman while out of prison on a weekend furlough. As Massachusetts governor, Dukakis supported the furlough program. He lost to Republican George H.W. Bush.
— Associated Press writers Elliot Spagat in San Diego and Zeke Miller and Robert Burns in Washington contributed to this report.
–Jessica Vomiero contributed to this report.
Catholic Bishops react to military coup in Mali
Contrary to the expectations of the people, the leadership of the Episcopal Conference of Mali (CEM) has termed the Tuesday, August 18 military coup in the West African nation as “regrettable” and “a big failure for our democracy” and called for a change of mentality if the country has to put an end to coups.
In an interview with ACI Africa Wednesday, August 19, made available to RECOWACERAO NEWS AGENCY, RECONA, the President of CEM, Bishop Jonas Dembélé said that the governance challenges the country is facing can be managed through dialogue.
“The military coup that led to the ousting of President Ibrahim Boubacar Keïta is regrettable because we are in a state of law and democracy. This is the second time that Mali has had a military coup as a result of the way in which the country is governed. It is a big failure for our democracy even if there were reasons for it,” Bishop Dembélé told ACI Africa.
“It is true that our country has serious challenges including bad governance, the poor management of the economy, corruption, insecurity and so on,” Bishop Dembélé said and probed, “Why is it that we Malians have not managed to engage in dialogue to be able to discuss these problems and face up to these challenges responsibly?”
“Our leaders, our people lack transparency, they hate those who speak the truth and advocate for good governance. This mentality must change for our country to move on,” the Prelate told ACI Africa August 19.
Bishop Dembélé who is a frontline member of RECOWA-CERAO urged the military officials “to ensure a return to democracy as promised but most especially ensuring the new leadership of the country put the people first and tackle the security challenges facing the nation.”
Asked about the role of the Church in the current crisis, the 57-year-old Prelate noted, “For us the Catholic Church in Mali, our role is to preach peace; our role is to preach dialogue. We shall continue in this path of dialogue for peace just like Cardinal Jean Zerbo and some religious leaders initiated.”
“In a state of law, power is not in the hands of certain individuals but to the people. The anger of our people led to this crisis, but we must work for peace and reconciliation in Mali,” Bishop Dembélé said.
He continued in recollections, “The Bishops in Mali have always issued messages before every election in our country sounding the alert and inviting the government to organize transparent elections, ensure good governance and better management of resources.”
“But it seems our messages are never taken into consideration that is why we find ourselves in this situation today,” the Local Ordinary of Kayes Diocese told ACI Africa and added, “If the opinion of the Episcopal Conference of Mali is needed to mediate in bringing back stability and peace in the country, then we are ready.”
As a way forward, the Bishop urged the people of God in Mali to “seek the path to conversion” and to accept dialogue in the spirit of truth and honesty.
“We all want change in our
country, but this change can only be possible if individually we seek the path to conversion. It is for Malians be they Muslims or Christians or members of traditional religion, to do an examination of conscience and accept personal and community conversion in order to engage in sincere dialogue,” he said.
The Malian Prelate added, “Now there is this coup d’état to demand change we really wonder where change should come from. As long as we don’t change our behavior, our mentality, we will always have a repeat of the current situation.”
On Tuesday, August 18, President Keita announced his resignation and dissolved parliament hours after mutinying soldiers detained him at gunpoint, Aljazeera reported.
“For seven years, I have with great joy and happiness tried to put this country on its feet. If today some people from the armed forces have decided to end it by their intervention, do I have a choice? I should submit to it because I do not want any blood to be shed,” President Keita said August 18 during the televised address to the nation.
Rev. Fr. George Nwachukwu
RECOWACERAO NEWS AGENCY, RECONA
Harris accepts VP nomination
Senator Kamala Harris formally accepted the Democratic nomination for vice president on Wednesday following a scathing speech by former President Barack Obama, who said the fate of the nation” depends entirely on the outcome of this election.”
Both Mr. Obama and Harris stressed the importance of voting, with Harris saying “we’re all in this fight together.” Harris sounded an optimistic note by highlighting her personal history and the promise of America, saying she was “so inspired by a new generation.”
“Make no mistake, the road ahead will not be not easy,” she said. “We will stumble. We may fall short. But I pledge to you that we will act boldly and deal with our challenges honestly. We will speak truths. And we will act with the same faith in you that we ask you to place in us.” She called Mr. Trump a “predator” in a speech that came after Mr. Obama issued his most forceful rebuke of his successor to date, saying Mr. Trump “hasn’t grown into the job because he can’t.”
“This president and those in power — those who benefit from keeping things the way they are — they are counting on your cynicism,” Mr. Obama said. “They know they can’t win you over with their policies. So they’re hoping to make it as hard as possible for you to vote, and to convince you that your vote doesn’t matter.
That’s how they win. That’s how they get to keep making decisions that affect your life, and the lives of the people you love. That’s how the economy will keep getting skewed to the wealthy and well-connected, how our health systems will let more people fall through the cracks. That’s how a democracy withers, until it’s no democracy at all.”
Mr. Obama and Hillary Clinton, speaking earlier in the night, both said they had hoped Mr. Trump would rise to the occasion. But they both stressed what they called his failures while in office, with Mr. Obama saying Mr. Trump has shown “no interest in treating the presidency as anything but one more reality show that he can use to get the attention he craves.”
Mali coup leaders vow to hold elections as history repeats itself
The Malian soldiers who forced President Ibrahim Boubacar Keita to resign in a coup promised early Wednesday to organize new elections after their takeover was swiftly condemned by the international community.
In a statement carried overnight on state broadcaster ORTM, the mutinous soldiers who staged Tuesday’s military coup identified themselves as the National Committee for the Salvation of the People led by Colonel Major Ismael Wagué.
“With you, standing as one, we can restore this country to its former greatness,” Wagué said, announcing that borders were closed and that a curfew was going into effect from 9 p.m. to 5 a.m
The news of Keita’s departure was met with jubilation by anti-government demonstrators in the capital, Bamako, and alarm by former colonial ruler France and other allies and foreign nations.
The U.N. Security Council scheduled a closed meeting Wednesday August 19, 2020 afternoon to discuss the unfolding situation in Mali, where the U.N. has a 15,600-strong peacekeeping mission. Keita, who was democratically elected in a 2013 landslide and re-elected five years later, still had three years left in his term.
But his popularity had plummeted, and demonstrators began taking to the streets calling for his ouster in June.
West African regional bloc ECOWAS had sent mediators to try and negotiate a unity government but those talks fell apart when it became clear that the protesters would not accept less than Keita’s resignation.
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