The Trump administration said it would prohibit people who illegally cross the US border with Mexico from claiming asylum, as the president seeks to choke off migration from Latin America.
Once the plan goes into full effect, which is expected to happen in coming days, migrants entering at the U.S. southern border would only be eligible for asylum if they come to official ports of entry.
Central American migrants, part of a caravan traveling to the US-Mexico border, walk on a road near Isla municipality, Veracruz, Mexico, Nov. 3, 2018.
Immigrant advocacy groups have complained that under Trump, U.S. border police have made it more hard for people to cross into the country at ports of entry and have outright turned away some migrants.
Many of these immigrants in the past have sought asylum citing a "credible fear" of harm having already committed other offenses, such as entering the country illegally.
Mr Trump is expected to sign a proclamation on Friday introducing what would be a major step to restrict asylum claims.
Immigrant rights advocates said the new rule amounts to a humanitarian crisis, as it will likely significantly reduce the number of people, fleeing violence and persecution in their home countries, who are able to request asylum in the U.S. "It is illegal to circumvent that by agency or presidential decree", said Omar Jadwat, director of the ACLU's Immigrants' Rights Project, in a statement.
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This summer, multiple news outlets reported that hundreds of migrants who had legally presented themselves to US agents at official ports of entry, like San Ysidro, California and El Paso, Texas, were told that their asylum requests could not be processed.
He called a current caravan, which is still hundreds of miles from the U.S. border and dwindling in numbers, an "invasion" and said it would bring hardened criminals to U.S. streets.
Administration officials have said existing USA asylum rules encouraged illegal immigration and bogged down legitimate claims.
Members of the migrant caravan arrive at the shelter of the Church of the Assumption, in the city of Puebla. A senior administration official said Thursday that the vast majority of such claims are "non-meritorious".
The caravan has remained undeterred, and participants have told Al Jazeera they plan on applying for asylum at an official port of entry.
In 2018, border patrols have registered more than 400,000 illegal border crossers, homeland security said.
Thanks to Attorney General Jeff Sessions, asylum rules were reformed to prevent migrants from receiving asylum by claiming they are fleeing violence, gangs, or domestic abuse.
In 2017, the USA fielded more than 330,000 asylum claims, almost double the number two years earlier and surpassing Germany as highest in the world.