Trump Immigration Rule Attacked for Endangering Asylum Seekers

WASHINGTON (CN) — Immigrant advocacy attorneys attacked a Trump administration rule Thursday, saying it would restrict people crossing the U.S-Mexico border from seeking asylum in the U.S. without providing a safe alternative.

The rule, first enacted in July, requires asylum seekers to show they have applied for refugee status in a transit country and have been denied before seeking status in the U.S.

In September, the rule was barred nationwide by Northern California District Judge Jon Tigar, who said the injunction was imperative to prevent an uneven enforcement of immigration policies. However, the Supreme Court stayed the injunction shortly after.

A pregnant migrant climbs the U.S. border fence before jumping into the U.S. to San Diego, Calif., from Tijuana, Mexico, on Dec. 27, 2018. (AP Photo/Daniel Ochoa de Olza)

Thursday, Mitchell Reich, an attorney arguing for the advocacy groups Capital Area Immigrants’ Rights Coalition and the Immigrant Center for Education and Legal Services, said the government had failed to show the lack of reliability of other countries’ asylum systems when issuing the rule. There was almost no supporting evidence that other countries like Mexico could provide safe asylum to immigrants, Reich said.

Using that country as an example, Reich said that 75% of Mexican nationals aren’t even informed about their ability to claim asylum in the country, and that it was almost impossible to do so in Mexico. Before putting forward a rule that required refugees to seek asylum in a transit country, the government needed to research the ability to do so and grapple with the information, Reich said.

Scott Stewart, arguing for the government, said the Department of Justice didn’t need to address the issue of other countries’ failing immigration systems. America’s system is plagued with a backlog of around 800,000 cases, the majority of which are family units — a large issue in respect to the safety of those families making arduous journeys to the country.

U.S. District Judge Timothy Kelly asked Stewart if the state of other countries’ immigration systems mattered to the government’s case. Stewart said it didn’t matter to the rule’s particular details.

Additionally, he said the inability for migrants to seek asylum in other countries did not acknowledge the current strain on the American immigration system, the sheer number of which would dramatically increase.

“Failure to seek relief in a third country casts doubt on the urgency of a claim,” Stewart said.

When asked by Kelly what relief the government was seeking by filing for a summary judgment, Stewart said the most efficient ruling for the defendants would be for Kelly to remand the case without vacating the rule — giving the government the ability to revise it if necessary.

Representatives for the plaintiffs, including Julie Veroff, an attorney with the American Civil Liberties Union, said they would be happy to have Kelly vacate the rule, without issuing individual injunctive relief. Kelly said there was no circumstance where an individual injunction would be in play with his expected ruling.

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