WOLA: Advocacy for Human Rights in the Americas

(AP Photo/Cedar Attanasio)

11 Jun 2020 | WOLA Statement

The Trump Administration’s Hateful New Asylum Rule

A proposed asylum rule by the Trump administration, which would virtually end any prospect of asylum for the majority of people seeking international protection in the United States, represents the latest fulfillment of a hateful, anti-immigrant ideology. 

This latest effort to gut the U.S. asylum system will almost certainly be challenged in court. If implemented after the 30-day period to receive comments on the proposed law, the new regulations mean that most people in need of international protection would be deported before they can argue their case before a court. Those fleeing criminal violence, domestic abuse, persecution on the basis of sexual orientation or gender identity, or “rogue” government officials would no longer qualify for protection, despite long-standing precedents in U.S. courts that affirm the U.S. government’s obligation to accept those fleeing forms of persecution. The draft rule would all but ensure that anyone who traveled through another country en route to the United States (even just for a flight transfer) and did not apply for asylum there would have their asylum petition rejected. 

Shutting the door on people in need of international protection is just one component of the Trump administration’s mix of harsh migration and asylum policies, most of which are now under legal challenge. These policies have created chaos and confusion, exacerbated a widespread humanitarian disaster at the U.S.-Mexico border, forced asylum seekers to seek protection in third countries that are anything but safe, spread COVID-19 across Latin America, and resulted in the deportation of an unknown number of people to their deaths in Mexico, Central America, and elsewhere.   

The Trump administration has made clear that it is willing to take unprecedented steps to unlawfully roll back protections for asylum seekers. But harsh policies aimed at “closing” the United States off to migrants and asylum seekers won’t stop migration: if the root causes driving people to flee aren’t addressed, families will keep coming, undertaking a journey that U.S. policies are making ever more perilous. 

There is a more effective, more rights-respecting way forward: take the actions needed to fix the U.S. asylum system; restore the United States’ role as a country that welcomes refugees and asylum seekers, and work with Central American governments and other governments in the world to strengthen anti-impunity, rule of law, and governance reforms. The United States should manage its asylum system in an orderly, lawful, and humane way—not blow it up in the name of a racist agenda


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