US President Donald Trump’s administration will implement a new asylum policy at the border that will result in potentially thousands of asylum seekers being turned away before they can plead their case in court.
The guidance issued on Wednesday also applies to refugee applicants — immigrants seeking similar protections in the US who are still abroad, media reported.
Under the new guidance given to the officers who interview asylum seekers at the US’ borders and evaluate refugee applications, claims based on fear of gang and domestic violence will be immediately rejected.
In addition, the guidance tells officers they should consider whether an immigrant crossed the border illegally and weigh that against their claim, potentially rejecting even legitimate fears of persecution if the immigrant crossed illegally.
It says officers “may find an applicant’s illegal entry, including any intentional evasion of US authorities, and including any conviction for illegal entry where the alien does not demonstrate good cause for the illegal entry, to weigh against a favourable exercise of discretion” for asylum.
The guidance does note some illegal crossings may be warranted, including to “escape imminent harm”, but adds that officers “should 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”.
The changes being implemented by the Department of Homeland Security come on the heels of Attorney General Jeff Sessions’ decision last month that gang and domestic violence victims no longer qualify for asylum.
Asylum protects migrants already in the US who fear persecution in their home country.
Sessions last month overturned an immigration appellate court’s decision to the contrary, reversing course after years of allowing such victims to stay. His decision is now binding for all the immigration judges in the country.
Most immigrants at the borderare Central Americans, coming from countries that are hotbeds of gang violence.
Last month, more than 40,000 immigrants either tried to cross the border illegally or get through a legal crossing without paperwork, many of whom may have been seeking asylum.