Stricter Asylum Rules: Immigrants Must Apply In First Safe Country They Enter

The Department of Justice announced a new immigration rule Monday that will restrict illegal immigrants from countries, other than those bordering the United States, for applying for asylum first in the U.S. if they have attempted “to enter the United States across the southern border after failing to apply for protection in a third country.” For example, the rule would not allegedly apply to Mexicans, whose first safe country is America.

Attorney General William Barr authorized the change in the rules under the Department of Homeland Security, as an effort to curtail the humanitarian crisis at the border and deter those abusing the current law from the dangerous trek to the United States.

The new rule has very limited exceptions and will go into effect 30 days from Monday. It will not apply to those potential immigrants who’ve already applied for asylum, the rule states.

“The rule’s bar on asylum eligibility for aliens who fail to apply for protection in at least one third country through which they transit en route to the United States also aims to further the humanitarian purposes of asylum,” Barr stated in Monday’s decision. “It prioritizes individuals who are unable to obtain protection from persecution elsewhere and individuals who are victims of a “severe form of trafficking in persons” as defined by 8 CFR 214.11, many of whom do not volitionally transit through a third country to reach the United States.”

“By deterring meritless asylum claims and de-prioritizing the applications of individuals who could have obtained protection in another country, the Departments seek to ensure that those refugees who have no alternative to U.S.-based asylum relief or have been subjected to an extreme form of human trafficking are able to obtain relief more quickly,” Barr added. Additionally, the rule seeks to curtail the humanitarian crisis created by human smugglers bringing men, women, and children across the southern border.”

The DHS rule, Barr states, reduces “the incentive for aliens without an urgent or genuine need for asylum to cross the border.”

Moreover, the rule also intends “to aid the United States in its negotiations with foreign nations on migration issues.” Barr said that by addressing the eligibility for asylum of aliens who fail to seek protection in the first safe country they primarily enter, while heading to the U.S. it  “will better position the United States as it engages in ongoing diplomatic negotiations with Mexico and the Northern Triangle countries (Guatemala, El Salvador, and Honduras) regarding migration issues in general, related measures employed to control the flow of aliens into the United States.”

European Union Asylum Rules

The rule, which is based on similar laws in effect in Europe and like the ‘Safe Third Agreement with Canada’ will require illegal migrants from other parts of the world utilizing routes through Central America or Mexico to enter the U.S. to apply for asylum in the first country they enter, according to the final outline of the order obtained by

According to the new DHS rule “The Departments are amending their respective regulations to provide that, with limited exceptions, an alien who enters or attempts to enter the United States across the southern border after failing to apply for protection in a third country outside the alien’s country of citizenship, nationality, or last lawful habitual residence through which the alien transited en route to the United States is ineligible for asylum. This basis for asylum ineligibility applies only prospectively to aliens who enter or arrive in the United States on or after the effective date of this rule.”

The rule also requires asylum officers and immigration judges to apply this “new bar on asylum eligibility when administering the credible-fear screening process applicable to stowaways and aliens” in America’s already backlogged immigration courts.

The DOJ’s announcement comes on the heels of a cancelled meeting today with Guatemalan President Jimmy Morales, who had intended to have his administration sign a ‘Safe Third Country Agreement’ with the United States. According to Guatemalan and U.S. sources the meeting was cancelled when Morales administration was stopped by the nation’s Constitutional Court from signing any agreement on immigration with the Trump Administration or any other Central American nation and Mexico. Leftist political opposition in Guatemala, as well as U.S. State Department officials opposed to the agreement between Morales and Trump and rallied for the injunction against Morales, as first reported by this news site.

Current U.S. Law

Currently under U.S. law, potential immigrants can apply for asylum if they are at a port of entry or in the United States. According to United States Citizenship and Immigration Services (USCIS) asylum seekers must apply within one year of being in the U.S. or they will not be eligible, except under special circumstances.

Mexico and the United States negotiated an agreement in May, expanding enforcement along Mexico’s southern border and those negotiations laid the ground work for the possibility of developing a bilateral asylum plan that would mirror other “country of first-entry” like Canada’s asylum resettlement agreements like the U.S. It would also resemble the European Union’s (EU) Dublin III Regulation. The EU’s agreement requires all asylum seekers to apply for protection in the first country they enter that has signed the agreement.

Canada Third Safe Agreement

According to the Canadian government’s website, the Safe Third Country Agreement between Canada and the United States requires refugee claimants “to request refugee protection in the first safe country they arrive in, unless they qualify for an exception to the Agreement.”

It states, the “agreement helps both governments better manage access to the refugee system in each country for people crossing the Canada–U.S. land border. The two countries signed the Agreement on December 5, 2002, and it came into effect on December 29, 2004″