The Latest: Customs head says asylum policy being rolled out

National
Kevin McAleenan

Aids set up posters as Acting Secretary of Homeland Security Kevin McAleenan, right, speaks at a House Committee on Oversight and Reform hearing on Capitol Hill in Washington, Thursday, July 18, 2019. (AP Photo/Andrew Harnik)

WASHINGTON (AP) — The Latest on asylum seekers at the U.S.-Mexico border (all times local):

7:45 p.m.

The acting head of U.S. Customs and Border Protection says the Trump administration’s new policy banning most asylum seekers at the U.S.-Mexico border is being rolled out as a pilot program.

Mark Morgan said in an interview Thursday with NPR that the program is beginning in the Rio Grande Valley and officials there have been briefed on changes.

The new rules went into effect Tuesday and apply to all asylum seekers. The rules say migrants arriving at the Southern border are barred from asking for asylum if they have passed through another country first. There are some exceptions, such as if a migrant has been the victim of severe human trafficking.

Morgan’s agency is responsible for initial encounters with migrants, but the asylum officers who will decide on a migrant’s eligibility work under U.S. Citizenship and Immigration Services.

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3 p.m.

A top Trump administration official says the number of family separations at the border has fallen since last summer’s zero tolerance policy, and they are done only for compelling reasons.

Acting Homeland Security Secretary Kevin McAleenan said fewer than 1,000 children have been separated from families out of 450,000 family groups that have crossed the border since October. He said they are separated because of health and safety concerns, among other reasons.

McAleenan was speaking Thursday before the House Oversight Committee investigating border problems.

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