ACLU files suit to block restrictive new asylum rules
Trump administration regulations would be biggest overhaul to system since 1965
THE AMERICAN CIVIL Liberties Union, Southern Poverty Law Center, and Center for Constitutional Rights filed a federal lawsuit on Tuesday to block sweeping new asylum restrictions announced by the Trump administration.
The regulations proposed by the Departments of Justice and Homeland Security on Monday would effectively prevent most asylum claims by not allowing migrants who pass through another country to get to the US-Mexico border to apply for the humanitarian status.
Massachusetts immigration advocates and attorneys representing asylum seekers say the new rules represent the biggest change in asylum law since 1965, when Congress voted to pass the Immigration and Nationality Act, which included protections for asylum seekers.
Under the new regulations, an applicant must be denied refuge in each country along the way prior to qualifying to apply for asylum in the US. If a Honduran national, for example, were fleeing overland to seek asylum in the US, the migrant would have to first prove that he or she applied for protection with the Guatemalan and Mexican governments. Migrants would also be expected to apply in countries the US deems as safe, but the State Department has deemed most Central American countries unsafe to travel in due to gang violence.
The lawsuit, filed in the Northern District of California, argues that the new regulation is a “part of an unlawful effort to significantly undermine, if not virtually repeal, the US asylum system,” and didn’t go through a public process. The suit is asking a district court judge to place a temporary restraining order on the new regulations so they can’t be implemented.
The Trump administration measure disproportionately impacts Central and South Americans, who seek asylum by traveling on foot. Migrants from other regions fly into the United States and make their case for protection then.
If a temporary restraining order is not issued, asylum officers and immigration judges will have to begin enforcing the new standard during first-step interviews where they must assess whether the migrant has “credible fear” of persecution in his or her home country.
Attorney General William Barr, who is named in the ACLU lawsuit, has lauded the new regulation as a way to stop exploitation of the asylum system.
Massachusetts Attorney General Maura Healey, who has filed several lawsuits contesting Trump administration actions toward immigrants, condemned the new rules and voiced support for the lawsuit.
“Ending asylum protections isn’t just cruel, it’s illegal,” said a Healey spokeswoman. “We support the ACLU’s efforts to fight against this heartless action by the Trump administration.”The Massachusetts Immigrant and Refugee Advocacy Coalition also offered support for the legal challenge.