Just a day after submitting America to a Twitter rant so racist that foreign leaders felt compelled to admonish the US president (Theresa May was aghast), Donald Trump is set to essentially end asylum for Central American migrants.
According to a new rule published in the Federal Register (embedded in full below) asylum seekers who pass through another country en route to the US will be ineligible.
This rule applies to children who cross the border alone.
“Pursuant to statutory authority [the Department of Justice and the Department of Homeland Security] are amending their respective regulations to provide that, with limited exceptions, an alien who enters or attempts to enter the United States across the southern border after failing to apply for protection in a third country outside the alien’s country of citizenship, nationality, or last lawful habitual residence through which the alien transited en route to the United States is ineligible for asylum”, the rule reads.
There will be few exceptions. Those who have been trafficked, who have passed through a country that didn’t sign one of the major international treaties governing how refugees are managed or who were denied after seeking protection in another country can still apply for US asylum. The bottom line, though, is that this is essentially meant to end asylum for Central American migrants.
“US law allows refugees to request asylum when they arrive at the US regardless of how they did so, but there is an exception for those who have come through a country considered to be ‘safe'”, AP notes. The issue, though, is that the Immigration and Nationality Act, doesn’t really specify what “safe” means, but rather points to existing “bilateral or multilateral agreement(s)”. As AP goes on to point out, “the US has such an agreement only with Canada” and while the recent agreement with Mexico called for Central American countries to consider a regional accord on the issue, nothing has yet been decided.
A meeting between Trump and Guatemalan president Jimmy Morales aimed at hashing this out was canceled pending court proceedings. To wit, from CBS:
A meeting in Washington between U.S. President Donald Trump and his Guatemalan counterpart Jimmy Morales purportedly over a potential “safe third country” agreement for asylum seekers has been canceled, Guatemala’s office of the presidency said Sunday. The presidency said that the meeting would be rescheduled because the Constitutional Court has not yet ruled on legal appeals aimed at preventing Morales from acceding to Mr. Trump’s requests. The meeting had been set to take place Monday
If Trump could secure such a deal with Guatemala, it would mean that Salvadorans and Hondurans who cross into the country would be forced to apply for asylum there as opposed to in the US.
The new rule (which would also “require asylum officers and immigration judges to apply this new bar on asylum eligibility when administering the credible-fear screening process applicable to stowaways and aliens who are subject to expedited removal”) will surely face legal challenges.
Obviously, this will exacerbate tensions between the administration and critics who have recently seized upon increasingly dire conditions at migrant centers. The move is also likely to be set against Sunday’s ICE raids and what, as of Monday morning, was an ongoing xenophobic tirade emanating from Trump’s Twitter account, where the president has doubled and tripled down on attacks aimed at Alexandria Ocasio-Cortez, Ilhan Omar, Rashida Tlaib and Ayanna Pressley, three of whom, by the way, were born in the United States.
Lindsey Graham showed up on Fox & Friends Monday and delivered a truly astonishing stream of vitriol, including this almost comically ridiculous soundbite:
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Trump quoted Graham in a series of tweets after the Fox interview concluded.
“Need I say more?”, the president asked.
According to his Twitter timeline, Graham was golfing with the president when Trump unleashed his already infamous “Go Back” remarks on Sunday.