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Trump official blames ‘deep state’ for migration failures

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A senior Trump administration official has blamed “deep state” bureaucrats for foiling the president’s plans to overhaul asylum rules and prevent more refugees entering the United States over the Mexican border.

Speaking on condition of anonymity to the New York Times on Tuesday, the official said the administration plans to push for hardline new screening measures for migrants claiming asylum in the United States.

The official reportedly singled out “deep state” officials and some of the president’s own appointees in the Department of Homeland Security for hijacking the push for the introduction of tougher measures.

Trump and his allies having long blamed “deep state,” an alleged covert network of security and government officials, of seeking to derail the president’s populist agenda.

The term was popularised by the Breitbart news network before being adopted by the president, and experts say the it serves as a signal to his supporters that the president shares their hostility to governing elites.

A Border Patrol agent is seen along the border during the official start for the construction of new bollard wall to replace 20-miles of primary vehicle barriers in Santa Teresa, New Mexico, United States April 9, 2018.
Reuters/Jose Luis Gonzalez

The anonymous White House official went on to describe plans to revise “credible fear” screening for officials assessing asylum applications.

Under current rules, when undocumented migrants enter the United States and claim asylum, they are interviewed by a US Citizenship and Immigration Services officer, who will assess the credibility of their claim to asylum on the basis of them having a “credible fear” of persecution or war in their home country.

But the official told the New York Times that there was room to tighten the criteria for deciding whether the claim was plausible, and reject more asylum seekers during the screening process.

The White House’s previous attempts to tighten asylum plans have run into legal obstacles, with a federal judge recently blocking the administration’s policy requiring migrants coming from Mexico to wait on the Mexican side of the border while asylum claims are assessed.

Human Rights First, a New York based rights group, has described the administration’s attempts to portray the screening process as a “loophole” as a “damaging rhetoric” that is “being used to legitimize changes to U.S. immigration laws that would block families, individuals, and children who have fled persecution.”

With the number of undocumented migrants crossing the border to enter the US at its highest level in more than a decade, the president is desperately seeking to fulfil his signature campaign pledge to reduce unauthorized immigration into the US. Around 103,000 migrants were apprehended at the border last month.

Stephen Miller in 2016
Brian Snyder/Reuters

Encouraging the president to adopt a range of hardline measures has been adviser Stephen Miller, who has reportedly supported Trump’s push to reintroduce the highly controversial child separation policy under the “binary choice” rule. The rule gives

Miller has also reportedly pushed Trump to take a confrontational stance towards Central American countries refugees are fleeing from, and even seal off the entire US-Mexican border.

Government sources have described Miller as adept at stoking the president’s anti-migration instincts and assigning blame for the failure to stem migration on disloyal officials. He also reportedly pushed for the departure of DHS secretary Kirsten Nielsen, who announced her resignation Sunday and had reportedly warned Trump of the legal hurdles faced by measures including a reintroduction of the child separation policy.

With legal challenges to any hardline new measure inevitable, Trump’s allies have sought to focus blame government officials, returning to a favored bogeyman used to assign blame when implementing the president’s hardline policies proves tough: a “deep state” of hostile officials.

The administration has focused on an overhaul of key officials and appointees at the DHS, and other agencies, with Trump withdrawing his nominee as acting Immigration and Customs Enforcement Director Ron Vitiellolast Friday, saying to reporters he wanted someone “tougher” in the role.

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