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US Changes Rules for Migrants Seeking Asylum at Southern Border

In this April 30, 2019, photo, Cynthia Mayrena, 29, of Nicaragua, describes how the list of asylum seekers works in Matamoros, Mexico. At least 800 people are still on the list, some for two months or longer, as they seek asylum in the U.S.
US Changes Rules for Migrants Seeking Asylum at Southern Border
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The administration of American President Donald Trump is changing rules for migrants seeking asylum at the southern U.S. border.

The new rules say that migrants must seek asylum in the country they pass through to get to the southern U.S. border before they can seek asylum in the United States.

Asylum is political protection given by one country to a person who is from another country. Usually people who seek asylum fear they would face danger if they return to their own country.

The new rules offer “limited exceptions.” These include if a person has been trafficked, if they passed through a country that has not signed major international migration treaties or if they have been denied asylum in the third country.

The rule is set to go into effect Tuesday.

Attorney General William Barr said in a statement that the United States is “a generous country but is being completely overwhelmed.”

Barr said the rules are meant to decrease the number of economic migrants and those “who seek to exploit” the asylum system.

In publishing the new rules, the U.S. Department of Homeland Security (DHS) said it faces more requests than it can deal with. Of the 900,000 immigration cases waiting for trial, 436,000 include asylum applications, it said.

The Trump administration said the new rules are aimed at reducing the large difference in the number of those whose claims are approved for consideration and those who gain asylum.

In its announcement, the DHS said only about 4,021 people receive asylum each year.

Currently, the U.S. has what is known as a “safe third country” agreement only with Canada. Central American countries, including Mexico, are considering the issue.

Guatemalan officials were expected in Washington D.C., on Monday to discuss a safe third country agreement with the U.S. A “safe third country” agreement would mean that Salvadorans, Hondurans and people from elsewhere who cross into Guatemala would have to apply for asylum there instead of doing so at the U.S. border.

However, Guatemala canceled the meeting. A legal case brought against Guatemalan President Jimmy Morales seeks to bar him from entering into such an agreement with the United States. The country’s constitutional court has not yet ruled on the issue.

The new asylum rules are likely to face legal action from activist groups in the United States.

Lee Gelernt is a lawyer with the American Civil Liberties Union, a rights group based in New York City. He has been involved in several cases opposing Trump administration actions related to immigration. He told the Associated Press that the new rules were unlawful and that they would hurt migrants’ efforts to gain asylum.

The new rule comes as the issue of illegal immigration has increased tensions between the Trump administration and Congress.

On Friday, House members and witnesses in an Oversight Committee hearing had emotional exchanges discussing conditions at border holding centers. The centers are for people detained after crossing the border illegally. A recent government report and visits by lawmakers and U.S. Vice President Mike Pence have brought attention to conditions at the centers.

I’m Mario Ritter Jr.

Mario Ritter Jr. adapted an AP reports and other materials for this VOA Learning English story. Ashley Thompson was the editor.


Words in This Story

trafficked –adj. the illegal business of taking people from one place to another to be used as workers

generous –adj. freely giving and sharing things that are of value

overwhelmed –adj. to cause a person or group to have too many things to deal with

exploit –v. to use often in a way that is unfair to others

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