Friday 16 April 2021

Latest plan by U.S. to deny Central American asylum seekers protection is illegal – The Trump administration introduced a new rule that would essentially ban Central American immigrants from seeking asylum in the US today, the latest attempt to radically rewrite US immigration policy outside of Congress.

The new rule, issued jointly by the Department of Justice and the Department of Homeland Security, bars anyone who travels through what is called a “safe third country” from applying for asylum in the US. The rule, which isn’t open to public comment and goes into effect July 16, will “enhance the integrity of the asylum process by placing further restrictions or limitations on eligibility,” it states. Specifically, the rule will:

- Advertisement -

…Add a new bar to eligibility for asylum for an alien who enters or attempts to enter the United States across the southern border, but who did not apply for protection from persecution or torture where it was available in at least one third country outside the alien’s country of citizenship, nationality, or last lawful habitual residence through which he or she transited en route to the United States.

Asylum seekers from Guatemala, Honduras, and El Salvador generally travel through Mexico via land to reach the US. Just as with Trump’s other attempts to radically change US immigration policy by revising agency rules and using emergency executive orders, civil rights groups responded immediately with planned court challenges.

“The Trump administration is trying to unilaterally reverse our country’s legal and moral commitment to protect those fleeing danger,” said Lee Gelernt, deputy director of the Immigrants’ Rights Project of the American Civil Liberties Union. “This new rule is patently unlawful and we will sue swiftly.”

The Trump administration’s termination of DACA—the Deferred Action for Childhood Arrivals—program, its attempt to expel hundreds of thousands of Temporary Protected Status residents in US, and a plan to stop providing migrant children access to education and lawyers, are all being challenged in courts right now.  In December, the Supreme Court denied the administration’s request to stay an injunction on a rule barring asylum seekers who don’t cross at legal ports of entry.

- Advertisement -

Immigration experts say the new rule breaks laws written by Congress and signed by previous presidents. It also contravenes international treaties the US adopted decades ago.

UN Convention on Refugees

The internationally-accepted definition of refugee, which the US agreed to, was first set in the 1951 Convention Relating to the Status of Refugees. According to the convention, a refugee is someone who:

As a result of events occurring before 1 January 1951 and owing to well founded fear of being persecuted for reasons of race, religion, nationality, membership of a particular social group or political opinion, is outside the country of his nationality and is unable or, owing to such fear, is unwilling to avail himself of the protection of that country; or who, not having a nationality and being outside the country of his former habitual residence as a result of such events, is unable or, owing to such fear, is unwilling to return to it.

Despite chairing the meetings that resulted in the 1951 convention, the US didn’t sign it. But it did sign on to an amended 1967 version, which extended protections for asylum seekers beyond 1951. The convention continues to apply to people who are seeking asylum in the US today.

The international agreement also states that signatories cannot expel refugees except on the grounds of national security or public order, which have to be proven through an established legal process. Countries also do not have a right to legally prosecute refugees for entering their country illegally, according to the convention, nor can they return them to countries—their home countries, or others—where they might face threats to their safety.

There is no “safe third country” provision in the UN convention, which essentially doesn’t allow states to refuse asylum without due legal course.

- Advertisement -

Congressional laws on immigration

The Immigration and Naturalization Act of 1965, signed by president Lyndon B. Johnson at the Statue of Liberty, abolished quotas that had limited immigration from certain countries and favored immigration from certain European ones.

A 1996 amendment to that law addresses the “safe third country” idea, specifically stating that an asylum seeker in the United States can be denied protection if he or she:

…pursuant to a bilateral or multilateral agreement, to a country in which the alien’s life or freedom would not be threatened on account of race, religion, nationality, membership in a particular social group, or political opinion, and where the alien would have access to a full and fair procedure for determining a claim to asylum or equivalent temporary protection.

But the only country that the US now has such a “bilateral or multilateral agreement” with is Canada. The Trump administration’s plans to sign such an agreement with Guatemala appear to be in tatters after the Guatemalan president postponed a planned trip to Washington, DC on July 14, specifically because Guatemalan courts said the president didn’t have power to make such a decision.

“This is an end run around the Congressional requirement for a formal agreement,” and the requirement that any third party country have a “full and fair process” for adjudicating asylum cases, said Georgetown University law professor Philip Schrag. Guatemala has a total of three officers who interview asylum seekers, he noted, who would be overwhelmed by the tens of thousands of asylum seekers a month coming to the US.

In 1980, the US Congress also passed the Refugee Act after an 85-0 vote in the Senate. Americans were eager to welcome Vietnamese displaced by the Vietnam War. The law raised the annual ceiling for refugees and changed the US definition of refugee to an individual with a “well-founded fear of persecution,” the same wording used in the UN convention.

The US has a long tradition of breaking international promises and failing to uphold conventions it has signed, mostly with impunity. Other countries may face consequences (typically sanctions) for their failure to comply with international agreements, but the way international organizations—and the world—are set up makes the US essentially unaccountable.

The Trump administration is already pressuring Congress to pass new laws that would reduce protections for migrants coming to the US. Today’s announcement suggests it is pushing for a wholescale restructuring of what it means to declare asylum as well.


- Advertisement -

We strive for accuracy in its reports. But if you see something that doesn’t look right, send us an email. The Q reviews and updates its content regularly to ensure it’s accuracy.

Q24N is an aggregator of news for Latin America. Reports from Mexico to the tip of Chile and Caribbean are sourced for our readers to find all their Latin America news in one place.

Related Articles

RECOPE asks for another hike in fuel prices

QCOSTARICA - If you haven't gotten over the whopping increase in...

Cross-Border Investigation: Tracking the Covid-19 Money

Q REPORTS - Central American governments allocated millions of dollars to...


India Overtakes Brazil as Second Worst-Hit Country by COVID-19

Q24N - The death toll from the coronavirus infection in the world has topped 2.93 million; over 136 million cases of the infection have...

Nicaragua to renew electoral tribunal, amid claims for impartiality

TODAY NICARAGUA – The Nicaraguan Legislative Assembly, controlled by the ruling party, is preparing to renew the electoral tribunal, amid requests from civil society...

Canatur expects an “explosion” of American tourists for the second half of 2021

QCOSTARICA - Local tourism at Semana Santa gave a brief respite to the tourism sector, especially in beach destinations: the Costa Rican Chamber of...

Immigration alerts about possible delay in airport procedures this Saturday

QCOSTARICA - The Dirección General de Migración y Extranjería (DGME) - Costa Rica's immigration service - is alerting people arriving and leaving the country...

CCSS has applied 587 thousand vaccines against COVID-19

QCOSTARICA -  The Caja Costarricense de Seguro Social (CCSS)  - Costa Rican Social Security Fund - registers the application of 586,799 vaccines against covid-19,...

Costa Rica exceeds one million vaccines received against COVID-19

QCOSTARICA - With the entry of the fifteenth shipment of vaccines against the SARS-CoV-2 virus, this April 13, Costa Rica exceeds one million doses...

TEC students create autonomous vehicle prototype for multiple uses

HQ - A group of four TEC - Costa Rica Institute of Technology - students created an autonomous vehicle to transport people, parcels, or...

College of Engineers qualifies as unjustifiable stoppage of works in Circunvalacion

QCOSTARICA - Unjustified. The Colegio Federado de Ingenieros y Arquitectos (CFIA) - Federated College of Engineers and Architects - qualifies the rejection of the...

3,157 new cases confirmed in 3 days!

RICO's COVID DIGEST - While for many bringing back the vehicle restriction measures on the weekends was a surprise, not here, I expected that...


Get our daily newsletter with the latest posts directly in your mailbox. Click on the subscribe and fill out the form. It's that simple!

Log In

Forgot password?

Forgot password?

Enter your account data and we will send you a link to reset your password.

Your password reset link appears to be invalid or expired.

Log in

Privacy Policy

Add to Collection

No Collections

Here you'll find all collections you've created before.