A new asylum policy which the Trump administration is implementing will result in potentially thousands of asylum seekers being turned away at the border even before they can plead their case in court.
The policy also applies to refugee applicants whose claims based on fear of gang and domestic violence will be immediately rejected, CNN reports. Moreover, the guidance given on Wednesday by U.S. Citizenship and Immigration Services instructs officers at borders to consider if an immigrant crossed the border illegally and weigh that against their claim, likely resulting in even legitimate fears of persecution being rejected.
Immigration advocates will probably quickly condemn this move which is also likely to draw legal challenges. According to advocates, under international law asylum claims are valid even if the migrant entered a country illegally and rejecting them only exposes them to even greater risk when forced to return to their home country.
The policy follows a decision last month by Attorney General Jeff Sessions to deprive asylum-seekers who have been victims of gang and domestic violence of protections.
Sessions used his authority as attorney general last month to overturn an immigration appellate court’s decision to the contrary, reversing course after years of allowing such victims to stay. He then said that immigrant’s claims must be rejected even before these people get before a judge and begin court proceedings.
Officers conducting the initial interviews at the border are also told to asses whether crossing the border illegally should be grounds for rejection, the guidance says.
“Claims based on … the members’ vulnerability to harm of domestic violence or gang violence committed by non-government actors will not establish the basis for asylum, refugee status, or a credible or reasonable fear of persecution,” the new policy states.
The guidance notes, however, that some illegal crossings may be warranted, including to “escape imminent harm,” but it is up to officers to “consider whether the applicant demonstrated ulterior motives for the illegal entry that are inconsistent with a valid asylum claim that the applicant wished to present.”