Trump administration puts tough new asylum rule into effect enforcing tougher restrictions on who qualifies for asylum

In this Aug. 1, 2019 file photo, migrants line up in Matamoros, Mexico, for a meal donated by volunteers from the U.S., at the foot of the Puerta Mexico bridge that crosses to Brownsville, Texas. A federal appeals court has put on hold a ruling that blocked a Trump administration policy that would prevent migrants from seeking asylum along the entire southwest border. The 9th U.S. Circuit Court of Appeals issued a stay Tuesday, Sept. 10, 2019 that put the ruling by U.S. District Judge Jon Tigar on hold for now. That means the administration's asylum policy is blocked in the border states of California and Arizona but not in New Mexico and Texas. (AP Photo/Emilio Espejel. File)

By CEDAR ATTANASIO and JULIE WATSON, Associated Press CIUDAD JUAREZ, Mexico (AP) 09/12 — A new level of despair spread among tens of thousands of migrants waiting on the Mexican border to seek refuge in the U.S. as the Trump administration began enforcing radical new restrictions Thursday on who qualifies for asylum.

“The United States is the only option,” Dunea Romero, a 31-year-old Honduran, lamented with tears in her eyes at a border crossing in Tijuana. She said she packed a bag and fled her homeland with her two boys, ages 7 and 11, after learning that her ex-husband, a powerful gang leader, was going to have her killed.

In this Aug. 30, 2019 file photo, asylum seekers walk by an encampment near the Gateway International Bridge in Matamoros, Mexico. A federal appeals court has put on hold a ruling that blocked a Trump administration policy that would prevent migrants from seeking asylum along the entire southwest border. The 9th U.S. Circuit Court of Appeals issued a stay Tuesday, Sept. 10, 2019 that put the ruling by U.S. District Judge Jon Tigar on hold for now. That means the administration’s asylum policy is blocked in the border states of California and Arizona but not in New Mexico and Texas. (AP Photo/Veronica G. Cardenas, File)

 

The new U.S. policy would effectively deny asylum to nearly all migrants arriving at the southern border who aren’t from Mexico. It would disallow anyone who passes through another country without first seeking and failing to obtain asylum there.

The rule will fall most heavily on Central Americans, mainly Hondurans and Guatemalans, because they account for most people arrested or stopped at the border.

But it also represents an enormous setback for other asylum seekers around the world, including large numbers of Africans, Haitians and Cubans who try to enter the United States by way of the Mexican border.

It is perhaps the biggest change to U.S. asylum policy since it was established in 1980 and the most consequential move of President Donald Trump’s crackdown on immigration, a signature issue as he heads into a re-election campaign.

Ngoh Elliot Takere gives an interview in Tijuana, Mexico, where he has been waiting for two months to apply for asylum in the U.S., Thursday, Sept. 12, 2019, on the border with San Diego. Takere left his war-torn Cameroon after being jailed by police for being part of the English speaking minority; paid $400 bail and was released on the condition that he leave the country or the French speaking government would track him down and kill him, he said. (AP Photo/Julie Watson)

 

The Trump administration put the policy into effect the morning after the U.S. Supreme Court cleared it to do so while legal challenges move forward.

Acting U.S. Customs and Border Protection Commissioner Mark Morgan called the high court’s go-ahead a “big victory” in the administration’s effort to curb the flow of migrants. Migrants and their advocates decried it as tantamount to a death sentence for many of those fleeing poverty and violence in their homelands.

Jessica Collins, a spokeswoman for U.S. Citizenship and Immigration Services, the agency that handles asylum cases, said it will be retroactive to July 16, when it was announced.

Collins said it will help remove one of the factors that impel people to set out for the United States, “leading to fewer individuals transiting through Mexico on a dangerous journey.”

An unprecedented surge of asylum-seeking families from Central America has overwhelmed U.S. authorities during Trump’s tenure, prompting the unprecedented response.

In this April 29, 2019 file photo, Cuban migrants are escorted by Mexican immigration officials in Ciudad Juarez, Mexico, as they cross the Paso del Norte International bridge to be processed as asylum seekers on the U.S. side of the border. Mexican Foreign Secretary Marcelo Ebrard said Thursday, Sept. 12, 2019 that Mexico’s government doesn’t agree with an “astonishing” U.S. Supreme Court order that would block migrants from countries other than Mexico and Canada from applying for asylum at U.S. borders. (AP Photo/Christian Torres, File)

 

More than 40,000 asylum seekers have been forced to wait in Mexico while their cases wind through the clogged U.S. immigration courts under another Trump administration policy, introduced in January.

In Tijuana on Thursday, 28-year-old Ngoh Elliot Takere of Cameroon stood only steps from the U.S., frustrated after learning that he could be blocked from getting in. He has been waiting for two months in Mexico for his number to be called so he can submit a request for asylum.

The 28-year-old furniture maker said he left his war-torn African homeland after being jailed by police for being part of the English-speaking minority. He was released on the condition that he leave the country or be killed, he said.

He said the military burned his family’s home, killing his mother as she slept.

As for the possibility of being turned away by the United States, Takere said: “I can’t think of that.”

“In the U.S., I know I’ll be protected,” he said.

Central American migrant kids pass the time at the Pan de Vida shelter in Ciudad Juarez, Mexico, while waiting with their families to request asylum in the United States, Thursday, Sept. 12, 2019. Mexican Foreign Secretary Marcelo Ebrard said Thursday that Mexico’s government doesn’t agree with an “astonishing” U.S. Supreme Court order that would block migrants from countries other than Mexico and Canada from applying for asylum at U.S. borders.(AP Photo/Christian Chavez)

 

Many asylum seekers denied refuge under the new policy will be placed in fast-track deportation proceedings and flown to their home countries at U.S. expense, authorities said.

Some seeking refuge may get to stay in the United States through other legal avenues, including protection under the United Nations Convention Against Torture, but the threshold to qualify is much higher.

“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.”

But Morgan said migrants with valid claims should instead be seeking asylum “from the first country they come in contact with.”

“They shouldn’t be paying the cartels thousands of dollars and risking their lives to take a 1,000-mile journey across several countries to get help,” he said on Fox News.

___

Watson reported from Tijuana, Mexico. Associated Press writers Mark Sherman and Colleen Long in Washington and Elliot Spagat in San Diego contributed to this report.

https://www.apnews.com/b183921bacb2444c81352ace4415c73d

Copyright 2019 The Associated Press. All rights reserved. This material may not be published, broadcast, rewritten or redistributed.

Posted in: Border Control, Border Patrol, Court Rulings, DHS, Illegal Immigration, Immigration/Asylum, Public Policy, U.S. Government, U.S. Supreme Court

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