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Home / Press Release / New Trump Administration Rule an Attempt to End Asylum
July 15, 2019

New Trump Administration Rule an Attempt to End Asylum

Washington, D.C.—In response to the anticipated release of a new interim final rule from the Departments of Justice and Homeland Security attempting to ban those who seek safety at the U.S. southern border from asylum if they do not first apply for protection in at least one country through which they travel en route to the United States, Human Rights First’s Eleanor Acer issued the following statement:

President Trump is trying to end asylum, full stop. Once again, the Trump Administration is attempting to rewrite laws passed by Congress to protect refugees from return to persecution. This is yet another move to turn refugees with well-founded fears of persecution back to places where their lives are in danger—in fact the rule would deny asylum to refugees who do not apply for asylum in countries where they are in peril. The president can’t stand the fact that seeking protection in the United States is legal, so he’s doing everything he can to make the asylum process as difficult as possible.

Human Rights First notes that Congress passed laws to protect refugees with well-founded fears of persecution from return to danger and to ensure that asylum seekers can apply for such protection regardless of their nationality, travel route, or place of entry or arrival to the United States. Congress contemplated specific exceptions to this general rule in situations where an asylum seeker was “firmly resettled” in a third country on the way to the United States, or where there is a “safe third country” agreement in place to allow for the person’s return to a third country where he or she would be safe from persecution and would have access to a full and fair procedure for adjudication of the person’s protection claim. This regulation is inconsistent with those statutory provisions and beyond what Congress has authorized the administration to do.

Federal courts blocked the administration’s earlier illegal attempts to impose an asylum ban on those who crossed the southern border. Human Rights First itself, alongside the National Immigrant Justice Center, sued to block the administration's earlier attempts to create an asylum ban, a policy now enjoined by the Ninth Circuit. This regulation is yet another attempt by the Administration to rewrite the laws passed by Congress through executive action, and it should meet with a similar response from the courts.

Human Rights First, in partnership with more than a dozen organizations with refugee and regional human rights expertise, recently released a new blueprint offering concrete steps to manage the humanitarian crisis at the U.S. southern border and to address the damage the Trump Administration’s mismanagement of it has caused. 

For more information on how third countries are not safe for asylum seekers, see Human Rights First’s facts sheets on how Guatemala and Mexico do not meet U.S. requirements for safe countries.

To speak with Acer contact Christopher Plummer at PlummerC@humanrightsfirst.org or 202-370-3310.