The Trump administration has announced that it plans to implement a new policy that will increase restrictions for migrants who are seeking asylum in the United States.
Under the new rule, migrants crossing over the southern border are only eligible to apply for asylum in the US, if they have first applied for and been denied asylum by another country, which they crossed through on their journey to the US.
The Trump Administration has branded this policy as a way to cut down on the number of migrants from Central America who come to the US seeking asylum.
In a statement, the Department of Homeland Security said, “Today’s action will reduce the overwhelming burdens on our domestic system caused by asylum-seekers failing to seek urgent protection in the first available country, economic migrants lacking a legitimate fear of persecution, and the transnational criminal organizations, traffickers, and smugglers exploiting our system for profits.”
This announcement comes as President Trump was supposed to hold talks with Guatemalan President Jimmy Morales today in Washington, to sign a “safe third country” agreement for asylum seekers.
The agreement would have forced Guatemala to process the asylum claims of migrants from countries such as Honduras and El Salvador, instead of allowing them to pass through the country on their way to the US. But Guatemala pulled out of the meeting at the last minute, after five former senior officials appealed to the Guatemalan Constitutional Court, arguing that the country does not have the resources to handle such a change in policy.
As of right now, Canada is the only neighbor the US has a “safe third country” agreement with, and many worry that migrants fleeing violence will not find the same level of safety in Guatemala that they would in the US.
The potential agreement has been sharply criticized by advocates for refugees who argue that it “would be an egregious violation of law and common decency,” in which individuals who are forced into Guatemala “would constitute an especially vulnerable social group subject to grave risks at the hands of gangs and other criminal elements.”
As for now, immigration courts in the US are backlogged by more than 800,000 cases and counting, which means that many asylum seeks will have to wait for years before their cases are heard.