On July 15, the Trump administration upended U.S. immigration policy by declaring that migrants who pass through other countries to get to the southern border of the United States are no longer eligible to seek asylum. The move is designed to stop migrants from gaining entry into Arizona and other states along the U.S.-Mexico border.
According to the new policy, which was scheduled to take effect on July 16, migrants who travel through a third country to reach the southern United States border and fail to apply for asylum in that country are no longer eligible to seek asylum in the United States. This means that the thousands of migrants fleeing on foot from violence in Central America are now ineligible to seek asylum in the U.S. if they haven't first asked for protection from Mexico or another country they passed through. However, the new rule also claims that asylum is a "discretionary immigration benefit" that can "generally" be sought by migrants who reach the United States.
U.S. Attorney General William Barr claims the rule change will decrease the number of migrants who are "forum shopping" or attempting to exploit the U.S. asylum system while also protecting those who are actually fleeing persecution. However, a representative from the American Civil Liberties Union called the rule "patently unlawful," and experts expect the changes to be challenged in court. The Trump administration has taken an aggressive stance on U.S. immigration policy, which has led to a sharp decrease in asylum approvals over the last two years.
Migrants who fear persecution in their home countries might turn to an immigration attorney for help. The attorney may review a client's case, explain all legal options available and work to get his or her asylum application approved as soon as possible.