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Trump Administration’s Latest Illegal Attack on Asylum

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Administration Announces New Unlawful Regulation to Close Asylum to Most Central Americans and Others

Today, the Trump administration announced that it will publish a new regulation going into effect tomorrow that will bar anyone, including children, from applying for asylum on the southern border if they pass through a third country.  For example, starting tomorrow, this regulation would bar asylum applications from Central Americans applying for asylum at our southern border because they transited through Mexico. With few exceptions, the rule requires that anyone, including unaccompanied children, who travels “through at least one country outside of…[his/her own] country of citizenship, nationality, or last lawful habitual residence en route to the United States, shall be found ineligible for asylum.”  

As CBS News states, “There are some exceptions: If someone has been trafficked, if the country the migrant passed through did not sign one of the major international treaties that govern how refugees are managed (though most Western countries have signed them) or if an asylum-seeker sought protection in a country but was denied, then a migrant could still apply for U.S. asylum.” But these hardly leave exception for most seeking asylum at the southern border today. 

Like with many other actions taken under the Trump administration that courts have enjoined, legal experts and human rights organizations say the regulation is unlawful and are lining up to seek a federal court injunction. As Lee Gelernt, the deputy director of the ACLU’s Immigrants’ Rights Project, stated in a CBS News article, “The Trump administration is trying to unilaterally reverse our country’s legal and moral commitment to protect those fleeing danger. This new rule is patently unlawful and we will sue swiftly.”                   

Ur Jaddou, Director of DHS Watch and former USCIS Chief Counsel, said: “On top of closing down the Central American Minors (CAM) program (intended ‘to provide a safe legal, orderly alternative to [apply for refugee status in home countries instead of] the dangerous journey that some children’ take to seek safety from Central America), drastically limiting the U.S. refugee program and abandoning efforts to work with the United Nations on a regional refugee solution for Central America started under the previous administration (only 525 people were resettled in the U.S. as refugees from all of Latin America in fiscal year 2018), and cutting foreign aid to address the root causes of migration, this latest regulation is an attempt to close down one of the few remaining avenues for people in need of protection. The only ray of light for those seeking safety is that Congress was clear when it enacted the asylum law and this attempt to circumvent it will likely see the same fate of other unlawful Trump administration attacks on the law and result in a federal court injunction.”  

David Leopold, Counsel to DHS Watch, Chair of Immigration at Ulmer & Berne and former President of the American Immigration Lawyers Association, said: Trump’s attempt to bar Central American refugees from applying for asylum is a despicable insult to core American values. I expect that the judiciary will quickly block Trump’s illegal attempt to prevent mothers and children from applying for asylum at the southern border and remind the President, in no uncertain terms, that he’s not a dictator with the power to simply discard American asylum law by decree. What’s next? Will Trump dispatch ICE agents to New York to remove the torch from the hand of the Statue of Liberty and arrest her for standing in the harbor without papers?”