The Trump administration is going to keep trying to gut asylum law, and the ACLU is going to keep trying to stop it from doing so.
Where asylum is concerned, Trump is determined to keep breaking the law. But the ACLU is equally determined to stop him.
On Tuesday, the ACLU filed suit against the administration's latest attempt to undo asylum law unilaterally. They're seeking to block a rule that the administration had announced on Monday, saying it would be implementing a new rule for asylum-seekers. It's a rule designed to frustrate the attempts of most migrants coming from Central America.
The rule would require those seeking asylum here to "apply for — and be denied — application in another country through which they pass." Functionally, this would stop Central American migration to the United States, as most asylum claims would languish in Mexico. That is, of course, exactly what the administration wants.
Right now, the only time the United States can require someone to apply for asylum in another country they pass through is if they go through a "safe third country," which is a country the U.S. has said is safe to stop in. However, Canada is the only country the U.S. has deemed safe. The administration's new rule upends that entire requirement and forces asylum-seekers to stop in countries that aren't deemed safe, like Mexico.
Current immigration law also states that a migrant is only ineligible for asylum here if they were "firmly resettled in another country prior to arriving" here. Firm resettlement, the ACLU notes, refers to the ties someone forms with another country and their ability to "enjoy safety and legal protection there."
Safety and legal protection are sorely lacking in what the lawsuit refers to as the "Northern Triangle" — El Salvador, Honduras, and Guatemala. Those three countries are rife with gang violence, sexual violence, and brutal homicides. Our own State Department, the lawsuit notes, says that Guatemala "remains among the most dangerous countries in the world" and has an "alarmingly high murder rate." That makes applying for asylum there nearly impossible. The same is true for Mexico. In 2017, the State Department reported that violence against migrants is one of '[t]he most significant human rights issues" in that country.
It is for these reasons that so many people are fleeing northward to the United States.
Besides pointing out the abject cruelty of the administration's position, the ACLU's lawsuit zeroes in on two parts of our immigration law and highlights there are only two exceptions: Unless you pass through Canada or firmly resettle in another country (one where you enjoy "safety and legal protection"), you can apply for asylum in the United States if you have a "well-founded fear of persecution" in your home country.
The lawsuit seeks to permanently enjoin the rule from taking effect, both because it runs contrary to United States law and because the administration issued the rule without following any of the required administrative channels.
This administration doesn't care about the law, but the ACLU does, and hopefully, they'll prevail.
Published with permission of The American Independent Foundation.