(CNSNews.com) – Acting USCIS Director Ken Cuccinelli defended the Trump administration’s new asylum rules in an appearance on CBS’s “Face the Nation” on Sunday, saying that the asylum arrangement that the U.S. has with Canada on the northern border is actually more restrictive than the new asylum rules for the southern border.
“And so we have different rules in different places. I don't think a lot of people realize this, but the northern border we have an agreement with Canada where you can claim asylum in either Canada or the United States, but not both under any circumstances. It's actually a more restrictive arrangement than we have now on the southern border,” Cuccinelli said.
“So, the circumstances that we face on our southern border are still crisis circumstances, and we have a 335,000 asylum case backlog, which I take very seriously, and it has creeped up while I have been here despite us throwing more and more resources at trying to drive it down. There are legitimate asylum claims in there. Some of them have been waiting over two years and we take very seriously the need to get to those people. Unfortunately, this system is clogged up with a lot of fraudulent claims,” he added.
“You were obviously directly impacted at your agency by the Supreme Court decision to uphold the ability to enforce these new restrictions on being able to claim asylum. What is the practical impact on the ground and when will it be felt?” CBS’s Margaret Brennan asked.
“So, it's already being felt,” Cuccinelli said. “It wasn't from zero to a hundred as soon as the Supreme Court ruled. We didn't know their timing, but I can tell you that I spoke with Mark Morgan and Matt Albence, the head of the other two immigration agencies, on Friday, and we will be working closely with the Department of Justice where the immigration judges sit, and we're ramping this up as quickly as we can logistically.
“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,” the acting director said.
“So, to explain, this restricts the ability of people to claim asylum if they haven't first tried to claim asylum and been denied in a country they were passing through en route to the United States, but claiming asylum is the legal channel of asylum. So, of trying to immigrate. So, if you're cutting off that legal channel, aren't you just going to push people towards illegal immigration?” Brennan asked.
Cuccinelli said most of the people coming through the southern border claiming asylum are already coming into the United States illegally.
He said the new asylum rules will be a deterrent for those making false asylum claims.
On a related note, Brennan asked why the Trump administration made it harder for people fleeing the Bahamas after Hurricane Dorian by requiring visas. She noted that for obvious reasons, some won’t have their paperwork.
“Well, CBP has actually extended itself out into the Bahamas which they-- I don't ever remember them doing before. We're actually making this a lot more accommodationist. So realize that the northern two islands were hit. Grand Bahama has electricity and the basics back,” Cuccinelli said.
“The Bahamas is a perfectly legitimate country capable of taking care of their own. We rushed resources in whether it was from USCID or the Coast Guard who were downright heroic in there, and Border Patrol assets were moved in there as well to make hundreds of saves,” he said.