Immigrants’ rights groups slam asylum rules taking effect today


Immigration rights groups, including the ACLU, are vowing to sue to stop the administration’s new asylum rules, which take effect today. President Donald Trump has signed an executive order that blocks non-Mexican migrants from applying for asylum if they arrive on the southern border without proof they were refused asylum in the first country they entered. 

The order is aimed at slowing the flow of migrants from poverty and violence-stricken countries such as Guatemala, El Salvador, and Honduras. Aaron Reichlin-Melnick, a policy analyst with the American Immigration Council, said the rules go against this country’s values.

“Banning asylum for anyone who’s not from Canada or Mexico or who can afford a plane ticket to come to the United States abandons America’s principles of protecting the vulnerable and offering refuge for those who face persecution in their home countries,” Reichlin-Melnick said.

The administration has been trying – so far unsuccessfully – to coax Mexico and Guatemala into signing agreements establishing them as “safe third countries,” that would process and hold migrants while they apply for asylum there, rather than allowing them transit on their way to the U.S. border. The president contended in a tweet that the vast majority of asylum claims are fraudulent.

Reichlin-Melnick said people still will be able to apply for a much narrower form of asylum called withholding of removal.

“Withholding of removal is significantly more difficult to win than asylum, which offers no permanent path to remaining in the United States, no option to bring your family members, and which can be taken away in the future if the government determines that conditions have changed in your home country,” Reichlin-Melnick said.

Tens of thousands of migrants are now waiting on the Mexico side of the border – stuck there because of changes the administration made earlier this year, which imposed a metering system at ports of entry and required many asylum-seekers to remain in Mexico until a judge resolves their cases.