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Trump to restrict asylum ability for Central American migrants

Eulalia Dalila Pojoy Cuyuch, 33, of Guatemala, far right, and her family say goodbye to a friend as they wait along the border fence to turn themselves into U.S. Customs, asking for asylum on June 14, 2018, in Tijuana, Mexico. (Gina Ferazzi/Los AngelesTimes/TNS)

This is a breaking news story. Please check back for updates as more information becomes available.

The Trump Administration has announced a new policy that would aim to reduce the number of Central American migrants seeking asylum in the United States, this in response to the dramatic increase in the number of migrants who have been seeking asylum at the U.S.-Mexico border.

The Department of Homeland Security (DHS) announced Monday that the new rule will publish in the Federal Register on Tuesday, and it will ban asylum seekers who try to enter the United States but whom have not already applied for asylum in at least one other country outside their country of citizenship or nationality.

In other words, asylum seekers must apply for asylum in another country they pass through en route to the U.S. prior to seeking asylum in the United States, or they would be banned from seeking asylum in the U.S. And in most cases, they would only be granted asylum in the U.S. if their other application is denied.

This would “enhance the integrity of the asylum process by placing further restrictions or limitations on eligibility for aliens who seek asylum in the United States,” DHS said, noting the new requirement.

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“Specifically, the Departments of Justice and Homeland Security are revising [specific sections] to add a new bar to eligibility for asylum for an alien who enters or attempts to enter the United States across the southern border, but who did not apply for protection from persecution or torture where it was available in at least one third country outside the alien’s country of citizenship, nationality, or last lawful habitual residence through which he or she transited en route to the United States,” DHS said.

Acting DHS Secretary Kevin McAleenan said in the statement:

“While the recent supplemental funding was absolutely vital to helping confront the crisis, the truth is that it will not be enough without targeted changes to the legal framework of our immigration system. Until Congress can act, this interim rule will help reduce a major ‘pull’ factor driving irregular migration to the United States and enable DHS and DOJ to more quickly and efficiently process cases originating from the southern border, leading to fewer individuals transiting through Mexico on a dangerous journey. Ultimately, today’s action will reduce the overwhelming burdens on our domestic system caused by asylum-seekers failing to seek urgent protection in the first available country, economic migrants lacking a legitimate fear of persecution, and the transnational criminal organizations, traffickers, and smugglers exploiting our system for profits.”

Attorney General William Barr said, “This Rule is a lawful exercise of authority provided by Congress to restrict eligibility for asylum. 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.”