Camilo Montoya-Galvez, CBS News, July 24, 2019
A federal judge on Wednesday declined to block a new rule that effectively bars most migrants from Central America and other countries from seeking asylum at the U.S.-Mexico border. The decision allows the Trump administration to implement for now its most ambitious effort yet to unilaterally overhaul the asylum system.
Judge Timothy Kelly of the U.S. District Court in Washington denied a request by several immigrant advocacy groups to issue an temporary order blocking the controversial asylum policy.
The rule, which went into effect last week, restricts access to the U.S. asylum system for non-Mexican migrants who traveled through Mexico and other countries to reach the southwestern border, but did not seek protection in those nations. Although designed to stem the flow of Central American migrants journeying north, the regulation also affects people from other parts of the world trying to reach the U.S. through Mexico — including Cubans, Venezuelans, Brazilians and central Africans, who have traveled to the U.S.-Mexico border in higher numbers this year.
Migrants who could prove they were victims of a “severe” form human trafficking or that they applied for protection in a third country and were later denied would be exempt from the rule.
In a rare public rebuke of domestic U.S. policy, the Office of the United Nations High Commissioner for Refugees — which receives U.S. funds — denounced the regulation as a “severe” effort that was not “in line” with international obligations for refugees.
However, the administration officials, who has often railed against “loopholes” in the U.S. asylum system, have strongly defended the rule, casting it as much-needed move for the government to deal with the months-long surge of Central America families heading towards the southern border and to fend off meritless claims from economic migrants.
Attorney General William Barr — who oversees the country’s immigration courts — said the rule was also designed to crack down on “forum shopping by economic migrants,” referring to a term used by immigration hardliners to describe the decision-making that they believe migrants engage in. They accuse migrants of preferring to seek asylum in the U.S., rather than in the countries along their journey that might be able to offer them refuge.