The Trump administration announced a new rule on Monday, changing the asylum application process along the U.S.-Mexco border.
The interim rule, which will be published in the Federal Register July 16, will require that anyone seeking asylum at the United States’ southern border must have first applied and been rejected for asylum in any third country they have travelled through. The rule is set to go into effect on Tuesday.
The change in policy means that a person fleeing – for example – Guatemala, who traveled through Mexico before presenting themselves at a legal port of entry into the United States, would first have to claim and be rejected for asylum in Mexico in order to be eligible to claim asylum in the United States.
The new rule brings asylum policy along the southern border in line with current policy along the northern border with Canada. Under the Canada-United States Safe Third Country Agreement, enacted in 2004, a person must make a claim for asylum in either the United States or Canada, depending on where they arrive first. A similar policy, the Dublin Regulation, exists in the European Union.
“Pursuant to statutory authority, the Departments are amending their respective regulations to provide that, with limited exceptions, an alien who enters or attempts to enter the United States across the southern border after failing to apply for protection in a third country outside the alien’s country of citizenship, nationality, or last lawful habitual residence through which the alien transited en route to the United States is ineligible for asylum,” reads the new rule.
The rule will apply to people who apply for asylum or enter the United States after July 16.
In addition to those who have already been rejected for aylum in a third country, “limited exceptions” to the new rule apply to survivors of human trafficking, and those who traveled through a country that has not signed an international treaty regarding refugee management. These people would still be eligible to apply immediately for asylum at the U.S. border.
Currently, a person may apply for asylum at the United States’ southern border, regardless of the number of other countries through which they travelled to arrive there.
Under the new rule, the failure to seek asylum in a third country traveled through on the way to the U.S. border will also be considered under the “credible fear” screening, which is the first step in the asylum process. A person seeking asylum must prove that they have a credible fear for their lives in their country of origin, due to their race, ethnicity, or other factors.
Although the rule “does not change the credible-fear standard for asylum claims,” the person doing the interview must consider whether or not the person seeking asylum has traveled through a third country without seeking asylum there.
The number of asylum claims has dramatically increased over the last decade, with very few asylees being allowed to stay. In 2009, there were 35,811 people who applied for asylum in the United States, and 8,384 were granted. In 2018, that number had more than quadrupled to 162,060 claims, with 13,168 actually granted.
The announcement follows a weekend in which immigration enforcement officers began carrying out a series of pre-announced raids aimed at removing approximately 2,000 people in cities across the country. The enforcement action is targeting individuals whose removal has ordered by the courts.
Several bishops in the United States issued statements opposing the enforcement action. Cardinal Joseph Tobin of Newark issued a statement ahead of the raids, which began Sunday, in which he said that they “will not provide a solution to our broken immigration system.”
“Instead,” the cardinal wrote, “they will cause more suffering to immigrant families, many of whom have been subject to detention, family separation, and violence.”
“Particularly disturbing is that these raids will be carried out as other families are attending Mass or services in churches, synagogues, or mosques,” Tobin said. “These enforcement actions should not be pursued on or around church property, as our brothers and sisters should not be afraid to worship God. It would show disrespect to all who worship and to God our Creator, who created us in His image.”
Despite no details being made available, President Trump praised the raids, claiming they were widespread and thousands were deported.
“The ICE raids were very successful — people came into our country illegally, illegally,” said Trump to reporters at the White House. “Many, many were taken out on Sunday, you just didn’t know about it.”