Posted On 15 Jul 2019
The Trump administration announced Monday it will move to end asylum protections for most Central American migrants in the government’s latest major attempt to restrict the influx of migrant families coming to the United States.
The new rule says asylum-seekers who pass through another country and do not seek asylum there will not be eligible for asylum in the United States, according to a statement from the Department of Homeland Security.
The Departments of Justice and Homeland Security said in the statement they were adding a new bar to eligibility for asylum for a migrant “who enters or attempts to enter the United States across the southern border, but who did not apply for protection from persecution or torture where it was available in at least one third country outside” the migrants country of citizenship or last lawful residence “through which he or she transited en route to the United States.”
The new rule would mean that, for example, a migrant from Honduras who traveled north but did not seek asylum in Guatemala or Mexico would now largely not be eligible for asylum in the United States.
“Until Congress can act, this interim rule will help reduce a major ‘pull’ factor driving irregular migration to the United States and enable DHS and DOJ to more quickly and efficiently process cases originating from the southern border, leading to fewer individuals transiting through Mexico on a dangerous journey,” Department of Homeland Security Acting Secretary Kevin McAleenan said in the statement.
Attorney General William Barr called the interim final rule a “lawful exercise of authority provided by Congress to restrict eligibility for asylum.”
The new rule was subject to three exceptions, according to the statement. The exceptions were for migrants who did apply for protection in at least one of the countries and were denied, migrants who demonstrate they meet the definition of a “victim of a severe form of trafficking in persons,” or came to the U.S. through only a country or countries that were not parties to the 1951 Convention relating to the Status of Refugees, the 1967 Protocol, or the Convention against Torture and Other Cruel, Inhuman or Degrading Treatment or Punishment.
The rule is set to be published in the Federal Register on Tuesday and would be effective immediately, according to the statement.
The rule is likely to face a legal challenge from immigrant rights and civil liberties groups.In the past, federal judges have blocked other attempts by the administration to change asylum policy.
Under U.S. and international law, a person may seek asylum based on persecution or a well-founded fear of future persecution because of race, religion, nationality, political opinion or membership in a particular social group.
The move represents an escalation of President Donald Trump’s attempt to deter Central American families to come to the United States to seek asylum. Earlier this year, the administration also enacted a policy forcing some migrants to wait in Mexico for the duration of their asylum cases. The administration has since been expanding the policy to include multiple cities across the U.S.-Mexico border.