On July 15, the Trump administration drastically changed the U.S. asylum policy for immigrants moving through multiple countries to reach the southern border of the United States, making most families fleeing violence in Central America ineligible to enter California or other border states. A representative of the American Civil Liberties Union called the move "patently unlawful".
The policy change was published in the federal register and is scheduled to take effect on July 16. It states that most migrant adults and children traveling alone who attempt to enter the U.S. over its southern border without first applying for asylum in any other countries they may have passed through en route are ineligible to apply for asylum in the U.S. However, the new rule also states that asylum is a "discretionary immigration benefit" that can be "generally" declared by immigrants who physically present themselves in the United States. In a statement, Attorney General William Barr said the rule changes are meant to stop immigrants from abusing the system.
Former Attorney General Jeff Sessions also severely restricted asylum rules while he was in office, making it more difficult for Central American women and children fleeing domestic and gang violence to declare asylum. As a result, the rate of asylum denials sharply increased. The latest policy changes are expected to be challenged in court.
Immigrants who have been refused asylum or need advice about their status could contact an immigration law firm for assistance. An attorney could review a migrant's case and explain how the asylum system works. Legal counsel could also protect a migrant's rights during all hearings and work to get his or her asylum request approved.