Trump Administration’s New Rule Ends Asylum Seeking At Southern Border

As the Trump Administration continues their attempts to limit the influx of refugees entering the U.S.-Mexico border, the President has made the controversial decision of reversing decades of U.S. policy by ending asylum protection for migrants arriving at this common point of entry. The announcement came on Monday July 15, stating that the new changes to asylum rules require migrants to make asylum claims at a previous country while on the journey to the U.S. southern border, and those who have not done so are then ineligible for asylum in the U.S.

Immigration activists and legal experts are highly critical of the new rules, calling them unlawful and alleging that they violate domestic and international law. The ACLU announced that it has filed a lawsuit against the Trump Administration the day following the asylum changes. The Deputy Director of the nonprofit’s Immigrants’ Rights Project told TIME that the ACLU “believe[s] that the rule is an end run around the asylum laws Congress has passed and should be invalidated as inconsistent with the immigration statute.” Two other organizations, Capital Area Immigrants’ Rights (CAIR) and Refugees and Immigrant Center for Education and Legal Services (RAICES) are suing the current administration as well. The executive director of RAICES, Jonathan Ryan, announced in his public statement delivered Tuesday, “This Rule creates yet another barrier to the right to seek protection that is guaranteed under both federal and international law.”

However, despite the criticism of such organisations, some disagree that the new rule is unlawful. In a public statement, Attorney General William Barr stated:

“The United States is a generous country but is being completely overwhelmed by the burdens associated with apprehending and processing hundreds of thousands of aliens along the southern border. This Rule will decrease forum shopping by economic migrants and those who seek to exploit our asylum system to obtain entry to the United States—while ensuring that no one is removed from the United States who is more likely than not to be tortured or persecuted on account of a protected ground.”

In a statement to TIME, Elora Mukherjee disagrees with Barr’s statement. The Professor of Law and Director of Columbia Law School’s Immigrants’ Rights clinics says, “In our system of checks and balances, the code of federal regulations cannot be overwritten by executive fiat. The President can’t just rewrite the law.” As the Trump Administration continues to create deterrents for the immigration process and asylum seekers, the legal efforts of organizations such as the ACLU and RAICES are necessary in preventing the U.S. from backing away from its obligation to protect innocent people attempting to find safety within the nation’s borders.

It is especially important for the U.S. to carry on with its responsibilities to asylum seekers who are fleeing the dangerous conditions within Central American countries—conditions which have been and continue to be exacerbated by “flawed U.S. foreign and trade policies,” according to the American Federation of Labor and Congress of Industrial Organizations. Decades of U.S. intervention and flawed policy which has protected the subversive agendas of political actors and U.S. business elite have helped to destabilize Central American countries such as El Salvador, Guatemala, and Honduras. Asylum seekers are simply trying to find safety away from countries where gang and drug violence are a threat to their livelihoods as weakened governments remain unable to help.

Outside of the role the U.S. has had in generating factors that have prevented the political and economic advancement of Central American countries, there is the legal and moral obligation of protecting innocents fleeing torture, death, abuse, and further violence. The Trump Administration’s fear-mongering of migration issues has generated a culture of xenophobia and racism which feeds on the myth that immigrants are burdening the U.S. and draining its resources. In reality, this myth is an irrational fear which is enabling innocent refugees to be refused at the southern border and sent back to countries where their lives may be endangered.