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White House proposes additional restrictions on asylum seekers

Posted at 12:48 PM, Dec 18, 2019
and last updated 2019-12-18 12:48:03-05

WASHINGTON — The Trump administration on Wednesday proposed additional mandatory limits for asylum seekers, specifically targeting migrants who have committed certain crimes, including illegal reentry and driving while under the influence.

The proposed rule is more restrictive than current US immigration law, further limiting who is eligible for asylum in the United States.

This is the latest move by the Trump administration to severely limit the ability of people to claim asylum in the US, which has included sending people to Guatemala to seek asylum there, barring asylum access to people who transit through another country before entering through the southern border and forcing people to wait in Mexico for their immigration proceedings.

Under the proposal asylum seekers would be found ineligible for crimes committed in the US such as: a felony under federal or state law, alien smuggling or harboring, illegal reentry, crime involving criminal street gang activity, operation of a motor vehicle while under the influence, domestic violence even with no conviction and offenses related to false identification.

Nearly all of the administration's proposed asylum changes have received sharp criticism and have faced legal challenges.

In 2018, then-Attorney General Jeff Sessions set a high bar for victims of crime to qualify for asylum, saying that victims must show that their home country was unable or unwilling to assist them and that "the government condoned the private actions." A federal judge blocked the policy.

Earlier this month, the Justice Department defended a decision that overturned asylum protections for victims of domestic violence and gang violence, arguing that the administration was simply trying to establish clear standards.

Also this month, a federal appeals court questioned whether a new restrictive asylum policy takes into account the dangers that migrants face in Mexico and Guatemala en route to the US.

On Tuesday, acting Customs and Border Protection Commissioner Mark Morgan touted the administration's asylum policies.

"If you apply for asylum, we're going to provide an option for you to wait outside this country rather than be released into the interior of the United States as you're going through that process," he said.