The Trump administration has announced a new federal rule — issued by the Department of Homeland Security and the Justice Department — that will limit eligibility for asylum seekers coming from Mexico. It made this known on Thursday in a call with reporters.
The rule will become operational after a presidential declaration. Reports indicate it may come as early as Friday.
The interim rule, states that ‘if applied to a proclamation suspending the entry of aliens who cross the southern border unlawfully, would bar such aliens from eligibility for asylum and thereby channel inadmissible aliens to ports of entry, where they would be processed in a controlled, orderly and lawful manner.’
The rule adds that ‘aliens who enter prior to the effective date of an applicable proclamation will not be subject to the asylum eligibility bar unless they depart and reenter while the proclamation remains in effect.’
The regulation will also amend the screening process for aliens subject to a bar on asylum eligibility, a senior administration official said.
The rule does not specify whom it applies to but addresses the issue in the context of increasing asylum claims from central America.
Officials admit this ‘one action’ won’t solve immigration problems and acknowledge additional measures in the future will be needed.
Among these measures according to an official is the work on staffing models to handle asylum claims that are expected to be seen at legal entry points by the Department of Homeland Security.
Jeff Sessions is credited with having signed the rule before he retired, said a Justice Department official.
The American Civil Liberties Union called the rule ‘illegal.’
‘US law specifically allows individuals to apply for asylum whether or not they are at a port of entry. It is illegal to circumvent that by agency or presidential decree,’ said Omar Jadwat, director of the ACLU’s Immigrants’ Rights Project.
The Center for American Progress also challenged the interim final rule’s legality, saying it violates the plain text of the INA.
‘When Congress in 1996 enacted sweeping immigration enforcement legislation—putting in place the expedited removal system that today allows Border Patrol agents to quickly deport people they apprehend without any court process—it specifically created the credible fear process to preserve the right of people to seek asylum when they are apprehended between the ports of entry,’ said Tom Jawetz, vice president of Immigration Policy at the Center for American Progress, in a statement.
‘Congress did that knowing that if it circumscribed the right to seek protection, then it would run afoul of our obligations under US and international law to not return people to face persecution abroad. The interim final rule issued today acknowledges this history even as it attempts to undo it entirely.’
Human Rights First’s Eleanor Acer called the new rule ‘the latest shameful tactic in a years-long campaign to vilify and punish those who seek protection in this country.’
‘President Trump’s scheme violates refugee treaties, and is a convoluted attempt to rewrite the laws enacted by Congress to protect those seeking asylum. This country is more than capable of safely processing asylum seekers to determine who among them have protection claims. Border officers already have extensive tools and resources that allow them to identify any individuals seeking entry who present a danger,’ Acer added.
Trump had earlier rambled on about this unilateral step just before the midterms. At that time, many people considered it a political stunt that wouldn’t come to fruition.
Since Tuesday’s vote — which saw Democrats take control of the House but Republicans retain control of the Senate — the President hasn’t mentioned the immigration orders or tweeted about the migrant caravan that formed his campaign closing argument.
A White House aide had mentioned the president would unveil an executive action resembling this rule that limits eligibility of asylum seekers but gave no detail about its legality or how it would be executed.
The Trump administration has been looking at ways to limit the number of asylum seekers, with the President and his allies often describing asylum as a ‘loophole.’
The Immigration and Nationality Act says that anyone who arrives in the US ‘whether or not at a designated port of arrival’ may apply for asylum if he or she has a ‘well-founded fear of persecution on account of race, religion, nationality, membership in a particular social group or political opinion.’
The administration is also considering a plan to limit the number of migrants able to enter at legal ports of entry by “metering,” essentially creating a waitlist to allow people to enter only if the Department of Homeland Security has the capacity to process and detain them at one of its facilities, a department official said.
This practice has often led many to cross illegally if they feel they cannot ensure the lengthy wait. Under this administration, that would amount to them facing rougher and higher standards for seeking asylum.