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Trump's Asylum Changes Compound the Real Problem

Because the Trump Administration has been unable to reach a Safe Third Country agreement with Mexico, it has opted unilaterally to force the situation by ruling that migrants who pass through another country en route to the United States cannot apply for asylum. Under a Safe Third Country agreement, Mexico would agree to offer asylum to those who pass through the country. Its government has been unwilling to take on that responsibility, so Trump has opted to effectively end asylum for those from Guatemala, Honduras, El Salvador, and from other countries that travel to Mexico on their way to the U.S. border. Ending asylum in this way would make those trying to escape poverty, violence and corruption Mexico’s problem, which appears to be a result that administration officials can live with. 

This is consistent with the administration’s approach to the situation and understanding of the problem. It has yet to seriously try to change the conditions that prompt people to flee their countries; instead, it has simply worked to get the immigrants off of the U.S. border. The administration’s actions consistently if inadvertently frame the issue as a PR disaster instead of a humanitarian crisis. 

This answer doesn’t make immigrants any safer. Mexico has not been a big improvement for those seeking to enter the United States, and as they have become the balls in an international game of ping pong, they have become unwelcome in Mexico as well. A recent poll shows that 55 percent of Mexicans favor deporting them, fearing that the immigrants will take the jobs and benefits that they believe should go to Mexicans. 

“The rule, if upheld, would effectively eliminate asylum for those at the southern border,” said ACLU attorney Lee Gelernt. “But it is patently unlawful.” On Tuesday, East Bay Sanctuary Covenant, Al Otro Lado, Innovation Law Lab, and Central American Resource Center in Los Angeles sued in the Northern District of California in San Francisco to have the rule overturned. The complaint contends that Congress never intended for asylum to granted only to those fleeing persecution from countries on the U.S. border—Mexico and Canada. 

According to the complaint, “It is obvious and well understood that asylum seekers often pass through third countries on their way to seeking refuge in the United States,” the complaint said. “Accordingly, in crafting the statutory provisions governing asylum, Congress took care to ensure that noncitizens within our country or at the border would be able to seek asylum even if they transited through another country to reach the United States.”

So far, there has not been a ruling, but the rule change has surprised and upset experienced asylum officers. “It flies in the face of the law as we have been trained and guided with great precision for decades,” said Michael Knowles, president of Local 1924 of the American Federation of Government Employees. “They’re not even changing the law; they’re twisting it beyond recognition.”

According to Knowles, the rule could have far-reaching and dangerous consequences. “It sends a message to every other country in the world that looked up to us for leadership and human rights and says, ‘We’re not doing that any more.’ Which means by extension, maybe they don’t have to either.”

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