With a go-ahead from the Supreme Court, the Trump administration Thursday began enforcing a new rule denying asylum to most migrants arriving at the southern border — a move that spread despair among those fleeing poverty and violence in their homelands.
A spokeswoman for the Department of Homeland Security agency that manages asylum cases said the policy would be effective retroactive to July 16, when the rule was announced.
The new policy would deny refuge to anyone at the U.S.-Mexico border who passes through another country on the way to the U.S. without first seeking asylum there.
The Supreme Court cleared the way, for now, to enforce it while legal challenges move forward.
Previous asylum request is key
Migrants who make their way to the U.S. overland from places like Honduras, Guatemala and El Salvador would be largely ineligible, along with asylum seekers from Africa, Asia and South America who try to get in by way of the U.S.-Mexico border.
Asylum seekers must pass an initial screening called a “credible fear” interview, a hurdle that most clear. Under the new policy, they would fail the test unless they sought asylum in at least one country they traveled through and were denied. They would be placed in fast-track deportation proceedings and flown to their home countries at U.S. expense.
“Our Supreme Court is sentencing people to death. There are no safeguards, no institutions to stop this cruelty,” the immigration-assistance group Al Otro Lado said in a statement.
The Mexican government likewise called the high court’s action “astonishing.” The effects of the new policy could fall heavily on Mexico, leaving the country with tens of thousands of poor and desperate migrants with no hope of getting into the U.S.
Acting U.S. Customs and Border Protection Commissioner Mark Morgan called the Supreme Court’s go-ahead a “big victory” in the Trump administration’s attempt to curb the flow of migrants.
U.S. Citizenship and Immigration Services said in statement the policy was important.
“Until Congress can act with durable, lasting solutions, the rule will help reduce a major ‘pull’ factor driving irregular migration to the United States and enable the administration to more quickly and efficiently process cases originating from the southern border, leading to fewer individuals transiting through Mexico on a dangerous journey,” said Jessica Collins, a spokeswoman for U.S. Citizenship and Immigration Services.
The American Civil Liberties Union lawyer who is representing immigrant advocacy groups in the case, Lee Gelernt, said: “This is just a temporary step, and we’re hopeful we’ll prevail at the end of the day. The lives of thousands of families are at stake.”