New Trump Rule Would Virtually End Asylum for Central Americans

Central American migrants trying to cross the Rio Bravo. Photo: Herika Martinez/AFP/Getty Images

The Trump administration is trying to end almost all asylum claims from Central Americans with a new federal regulation that’s no doubt headed straight for the courts.

Published to the federal register on Monday, the new rule stipulates that “asylum seekers who pass through another country first will be ineligible for asylum at the U.S. southern border,” according to the Associated Press. There are exceptions for those who applied for and were denied asylum in another country.

The new rule, which is set to go into effect Tuesday, would effectively bar anyone traveling from Honduras, Guatemala, and El Salvador from claiming asylum in the U.S. More than half a million migrants from those nations have left home and headed north in the first eight months of fiscal year 2019. Most of them pass through Mexico on their way to the U.S.

Swift legal challenges the new regulation are expected, the AP explains:

U.S. law allows refugees to request asylum when they arrive at the U.S. regardless of how they did so, but there is an exception for those who have come through a country considered to be “safe.” But the Immigration and Nationality Act, which governs asylum law, is vague on how a country is determined “safe”; it says “pursuant to a bilateral or multilateral agreement.”

The Department of Homeland Security justified the rule by citing the “small minority” of asylum seekers who are ultimately granted asylum.

“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 affects the United States’ ongoing diplomatic negotiations with foreign countries,” the rule says

The new Trump administration rule comes after a weekend in which large scale ICE raids didn’t seem to materialize. The threatened action against undocumented families was supposed to hit major American cities and deport some 2,000 people from the country. But the Times reports that the plans were scaled back “because of news reports that had tipped off immigrant communities about what to expect.”

Trump Rule Would Virtually End Asylum for Central Americans