The Trump administration announced a major change in asylum policy on Monday that could lead to a drastic reduction in the number of people that are eligible for asylum who are attempting to enter the United States through the southern border.
“The new rule, published in the Federal Register, would require most migrants entering through America’s southern border to first seek asylum in one of the countries they traversed – whether in Mexico, in Central America, or elsewhere on their journey,” Fox News reported.
In a statement, the Department of Homeland Security (DHS) highlighted three limited exceptions:
(1) an alien who demonstrates that he or she applied for protection from persecution or torture in at least one of the countries through which the alien transited en route to the United States, and the alien received a final judgment denying the alien protection in such country;
(2) an alien who demonstrates that he or she satisfies the definition of “victim of a severe form of trafficking in persons” provided in 8 C.F.R. § 214.11; or,
(3) an alien who has transited en route to the United States 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.
DHS noted that the change is meant to crack down on people who are abusing the asylum system as a way of getting around entering U.S. immigration laws.
“Only a small minority of these individuals, however, are ultimately granted asylum,” the statement said. “The large number of meritless asylum claims places an extraordinary strain on the nation’s immigration system, undermines many of the humanitarian purposes of asylum, has exacerbated the humanitarian crisis of human smuggling, and adversely impacts the United States’ ongoing diplomatic negotiations with foreign countries.”
“This Rule is a lawful exercise of authority provided by Congress to restrict eligibility for asylum,” Attorney General William Barr said in a statement. “The United States is a generous country but is being completely overwhelmed by the burdens associated with apprehending and processing hundreds of thousands of aliens along the southern border.”
“This Rule will decrease forum shopping by economic migrants and those who seek to exploit our asylum system to obtain entry to the United States—while ensuring that no one is removed from the United States who is more likely than not to be tortured or persecuted on account of a protected ground,” Barr added.