New Rule Sets Higher Bar for Immigrants to Claim Asylum

Immigrants gather at the U.S.-Mexico border in Tijuana, Mexico, in November 2019 to hear names called from a waiting list to claim asylum in the U.S. (AP Photo/Elliot Spagat, File)

WASHINGTON (CN) — The Trump administration has continued its efforts to clamp down on asylum seekers in the U.S. with a new proposed rule that would make it more difficult for immigrants to be granted protection.

One aspect of the policy, proposed late Wednesday by the Departments of Justice and Homeland Security, requires higher scrutiny over an asylum claim if the person making the request had traversed other countries on the way to the U.S. without having applied for asylum in those places.  

“The departments believe that the failure to seek asylum or refugee protection in at least one country through which an alien transited while en route to the United States may reflect an increased likelihood that the alien is misusing the asylum system as a mechanism to enter and remain in the United States rather than legitimately seeking urgent protection,” the proposed rule states. 

The rule, which allows for some exceptions, widens the scope of a policy from last July that makes noncitizens traveling from Latin America through Mexico ineligible for asylum at the southern border unless they applied for and were denied protection in a country they passed along the way.

The proposed new policy also says certain factors can count against asylum claims, including living in the U.S. illegally for more than a year or having a criminal conviction, even if it was vacated or expunged.

The 161-page draft rule, which will be published in the Federal Register on Monday, will undergo a public comment period before it can be implemented. 

In a tweet, the American Immigration Council called the proposal “a ban on top of a ban.”

“This proposed rule would issue new immigration bans — including another asylum ban for those who don’t apply for asylum in a country they have transited through,” the organization said.

The rule also gives lower-level asylum officers the authority to deny claims if they find that an application is frivolous. An asylum claim can also be rejected if the applicant is seeking protection from gang-related or terrorist threats. 

The Trump administration says the changes are meant to speed up procedures. 

But House Judiciary Committee Chair Jerry Nadler, D-N.Y., and Zoe Lofgren, a California Democrat who chairs a subcommittee on immigration policy and enforcement, condemned the proposal in a statement Thursday.

“This latest effort continues a pattern of executive overreach, violation of the separation of powers, and continued assaults on our Constitution when it comes to rewriting our nation’s immigration laws,” they said. “In this historic moment, preserving the rule of law and nation’s long tradition of asylum-seeking is crucial. We can and must continue to be a beacon of hope and freedom across the world.”

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