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Dara Lind of Vox on the Trump Administration’s Plan to Gut Asylum

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“Plan would bar people who enter illegally from getting asylum”

In a must-read exclusive, Vox’s Dara Lind reports that Attorney General Jeff Sessions has drafted a regulation that would bar most of those fleeing horrific violence in Honduras, El Salvador and Guatemala from being recognized as refugees in the United States.

The draft regulation is said to specifically target families that cross between ports of entry, which is often the only way Central American asylum-seekers can enter the United States. Under Sessions’ zero-tolerance policy, all individuals who cross between ports of entry are prosecuted for unauthorized entry – a federal misdemeanor.  Sessions’ proposed regulation would then, in contravention of existing law, prohibit the convicted parents from applying for asylum in the U.S.

Lind reports:

Under the plan, people would be barred from getting asylum if they came into the US between ports of entry and were prosecuted for illegal entry. It would also add presumptions that would make it extremely difficult for Central Americans to qualify for asylum, and codify — in an even more restrictive form — an opinion written by Sessions in June that attempted to restrict asylum for victims of domestic and gang violence.

Lind is referring to Matter of A-B-, a case in which Sessions attempted to severely restrict the circumstances under which a woman fleeing domestic or gang violence could qualify for asylum.  In that decision, Sessions dropped a footnote 12 which, for all practical purposes, declared that Immigration Judges and U.S. Citizenship and Immigration Services’ asylum corps adjudicators should consider denying a person’s asylum if the person entered other than at a designated port of entry – even if the person fled unspeakable domestic abuse, gang violence or other persecution.

Sessions stated:

[T]he circumvention of orderly refugee procedures; whether the alien passed through any other countries or arrived in the United States directly from her country; whether orderly refugee procedures were in fact available to help her in any country she passed through; whether she made any attempts to seek asylum before coming to the United States; the length of time the alien remained in a third country; and her living conditions, safety, and potential for long-term residency there.

Lind reports that Sessions’ regulation would restrict asylum in many other ways, including limiting appeals, rejecting asylum applications on technicalities, and barring asylum seekers based on traffic violations.

David Leopold, Chair of Immigration Law at Ulmer & Berne and counsel to DHS Watch, said:

Attorney General Sessions should take a break from attacking immigrants and read the law. It’s crystal clear; a person is legally entitled to apply for and be granted asylum regardless of how he or she entered the United States. Congress made no distinction between immigrants who enter at ports of entry and those who do not. Indeed, the law permits an asylum application by any immigrant ‘who is physically present in the United States,’ regardless of how they got here. Sessions’ imminent assault on asylum-seekers comes as no surprise. He spent his entire career in the Senate preparing for this moment. Now, he is readying a regulation that guts asylum protections for people fleeing horrific domestic and gang violence. The problem for Sessions is that the courts will not likely permit him to implement a regulation that uses discretion to bury the rule. If he moves forward with the regulation, the Attorney General will, yet again, find himself at the wrong end of a major lawsuit targeting his inhumane policies.