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The Trump administration released a new "interim final rule" on asylum today that would effectively end any chance of asylum at the southern border. The rule will be published in the Federal Register tomorrow, and take effect immediately; it would bar asylum applications from anyone "failing to apply for protection from persecution or torture while in a third country through which they transited en route to the United States." Not surprisingly, the ACLU immediately announced plans to challenge the rule in federal court. It's just the latest attempt by the government to ignore international agreements and existing US law, with the goal of sharply limiting even legal immigration and making America whiter. Trump immigration Obersturmbannführer Stephen Miller's name isn't on the document, but it sure reeks of his handiwork.


In essence, the rule would demand that anyone trying to escape crime and violence in Central America would have to apply for asylum in one of the countries they cross on the way to the United States, particularly Mexico. People could only request asylum in the US if one of those countries first denied their claim. Victims of oppression or torture would still be able to apply for other humanitarian considerations, but those forms of protection merely delay deportation instead of providing an option to stay in the US.

Under existing US asylum law, people can request asylum "whether or not" they arrive at an official port of entry. There's an exception for those who have come through a "safe third country," but the definition of "safe" is a bit vague -- the law only says it's "pursuant to a bilateral or multilateral agreement." Here's the problem, as the Associated Press explains:

Right now, the U.S. has such an agreement, known as a "safe third country," only with Canada. Under a recent agreement with Mexico, Central American countries were considering a regional compact on the issue, but nothing has been decided.

So no, there is no such agreement. And yes, it gets even stupider: Just yesterday,

Guatemala's government pulled out of a meeting between President Jimmy Morales and Trump that had been scheduled for Monday, citing ongoing legal questions over whether the country could be deemed a "safe third country" for migrants who want to reach the U.S.

That's a pretty neat trick! Guatemala is one of the three Central American nations people have been fleeing, but apparently the US wants to designate it a safe place for people fleeing El Salvador and Honduras, because who ever heard of transnational gangs? Oh, sure, the US State Department tells Americans to "reconsider travel" to several parts of Guatemala, with scary warnings about the risks to travelers, like so:

Violent crime, such as armed robbery and murder, is common. Gang activity, such as extortion, violent street crime, and narcotics trafficking, is widespread. Local police may lack the resources to respond effectively to serious criminal incidents.

Avoid areas outside of major roads and highways

Then again, the travel advisories for ALL of Honduras and El Salvador tell Americans to stay away, so we guess Guatemala really is marginally safer. Especially for people fleeing the murder and rape. They're probably used to it by now anyway.

Despite those stark warnings about crime in Central America, Team Trump claims asylum has to be shut down because too many people are taking advantage of the goodness of Donald Trump's heart. Acting Homeland Security Secretary Kevin McAleenan said the move was necessary to "help reduce a major 'pull' factor driving irregular migration to the United States," because obviously everything's just fine in those countries that are too dangerous for Americans to visit. Funny, though -- the existing asylum law has been in place since 1990, but the Trump administration seems to think that 30-year-old law just recently caused a surge of asylum seekers from Central America. Probably because George Soros only started paying all the migrants to come here, huh?

It appears very unlikely this rule will actually stand up to challenges in the courts, which haven't been completely filled with Trump appointees yet. But until this bullshit gets thrown out, the new rule is a serious setback for people seeking asylum, as ProPublica reporter Dara Lind points out: The US is still "metering" asylum applicants coming in at ports of entry, resulting in weeks-long waits to simply apply (and then be sent back to wait in crime-ridden camps in Mexico for a hearing, possibly for years). Anyone who applied before now will have their asylum application considered under the existing rule. But people who followed the Trump administration's insistence that they "do it the right way" are doubly screwed:

Thousands of Central Americans who arrived at ports weeks ago will now be barred from asylum because they decided to wait instead of entering illegally.

Haw Haw! That's what you get for not being from Norway, losers!

[Amna Nawaz on Twitter / US Department of Homeland Security / NPR / AP]

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Doktor Zoom

Doktor Zoom's real name is Marty Kelley, and he lives in the wilds of Boise, Idaho. He is not a medical doctor, but does have a real PhD in Rhetoric. You should definitely donate some money to this little mommyblog where he has finally found acceptance and cat pictures. He is on maternity leave until 2033. Here is his Twitter, also. His quest to avoid prolixity is not going so great.

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