ACLU sues to block Trump’s new sweeping asylum restrictions

The American Civil Liberties Union says the new rule is the Trump administration's most extreme attempt at an asylum ban yet. Photo by Ariana Drehsler/UPI

July 17 (UPI) — Four civil rights organizations sued the Trump administration Tuesday to block a new rule that would make most asylum seekers inadmissible from entering the United States through its southern border.

The 32-page complaint, filed in a federal California court by the American Civil Liberties Union, The Southern Poverty Law Center and the Center for Constitutional Rights, seeks an injunction against the rule that would make ineligible for asylum non-citizens who transit through a third country before reaching the U.S. southern border.

The rule, which takes effect Tuesday, exempts those who applied for protection in a transit country but were denied asylum, those who are victims of trafficking and those who traveled through countries that are not signatories to the 1951 Convention on the Status of Refugees among other protocols.

Most asylum seekers to the U.S. southern border travel through Mexico, and since it is a signatory to the 1951 Convention and does not have an agreement with the United States concerning third-country status, the rule would make inadmissible “virtually every non-citizen fleeing persecution from obtaining asylum in the United States,” the ACLU argued in the complaint.

The ACLU, on behalf of the East Bay Sanctuary Covenant, Al Otro Lado, Innovation Law Lab and Central American Resource Center in Los Angeles, said on Twitter that the new rule is the Trump administration’s “most extreme run at an asylum ban.”

The Rule is a part of an unlawful effort to significantly undermine, if not virtually repeal, the U.S. asylum system at the southern border, and cruelly closes our doors to refugees fleeing persecution, forcing them to return to harm,” it said in the complaint.

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The U.S. Justice Department announced the change to asylum rules Monday, with U.S. Attorney General William Barr saying in a statement that it is “a lawful exercise of authority provided by Congress to restrict eligibility for asylum.”

“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,” he said.

The move by the Trump administration is its latest in an attempt to restrict the number of migrants attempting to enter the United States through its southern border.

President Donald Trump and his administration have long said there is a crisis at the southern border and have attempted to implement various policies to combat the problem.

“This is the latest — and deeply dangerous — effort by the Trump administration to inflict maximal cruelty on vulnerable people fleeing desperate conditions for safety here,” Baher Azmy, legal director for the Center for Constitutional Rights, said in a statement. “This rule also serves to project the administration’s rejection of the fundamental, international post-war consensus that human rights matter. They still do, and this suit seeks to vindicate their value.”

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