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September 13, 2019

Trump Administration’s Third-Country Transit Bar is An Asylum Ban that Will Return Refugees to Danger

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The Trump Administration’s third-country transit asylum bar, issued as an interim final rule on July 16, 2019, effectively bans asylum for the vast majority of refugees seeking protection at the U.S. southern border. This radical attempt to bypass the laws Congress adopted to protect refugees from return to persecution violates U.S. law and treaty obligations and will cause the United States to return refugees with well-founded fears back to their countries of persecution.

This new regulatory asylum bar attempts to evade the law established by Congress that merely passing through a third country en route to the United States is not a basis to deny asylum. U.S. immigration law bars refugees who transit through other countries from asylum only if they “firmly resettled” in the transit country, or if the United States has a formal return agreement with a country where refugees are both safe from persecution and would have access to a full and fair procedure to seek asylum.

As of September 11, 2019, the asylum ban is in full effect after the U.S. Supreme Court stayed a ruling by a federal district court in northern California that had preliminarily enjoined the asylum ban during litigation brought on behalf of legal service providers by the ACLU, the Center for Constitutional Rights, and the Southern Poverty Law Center. A challenge to the asylum bar by Human Rights First, the Capital Area Immigrants’ Rights Coalition, RAICES, and nine asylum seekers subject to the ban is also pending in the D.C. district court.

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